Taking care of people at work and in life is a duty in which leaders can—and should—be 100 percent successful

02 Jul 2024 · 4 min read
As we look back at Pride Month, it’s important to remember that focusing on, and investing in, our LGBTQ+ colleagues and all other minority groups is a year-round moral imperative for businesses aiming to build a better society.
Stefano Volpetti, President, Smoke-Free Products Category & Chief Consumer Officer

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By Stefano Volpetti, President, Smoke-Free Inhaled Products & Chief Consumer Officer, PMI

Two hands in a heart with Pride rainbow flags

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably found yourself comparing your professional and personal values from time to time to check in on how authentic you’re being as a leader.

For me, they align perfectly in my passion for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion, demonstrated by my commitment to consistently taking a people-centric approach—both inside and outside of work.

After all, how can I, as a leader, best serve PMI’s consumers without first doing the same for our employees? The two are directly linked.  

And let’s be clear: This is not a box-ticking exercise for my company; it is simply the right thing to do.

That’s why I prioritize understanding the different needs of my people, working closely with them to drive the cultural change that will enable everyone to flourish in their roles. 

Stefano Volpetti,
President, Smoke-Free Inhaled Products & Chief Consumer Officer

Embracing and celebrating everyone 

It’s through these displays of allyship—alongside my many interactions with the LGBTQ+ community at Philip Morris International (PMI) and previous companies—that I had the honor of being invited to become Executive Sponsor of Stripes, PMI’s LGBTQ+ employee resource group.

During the past year, I’ve met many members and allies of PMI’s LGBTQ+ community—and have felt inspired by the abundance of warmth, compassion, and love. I hope I, and every other employee at our company, can give back the same.

At PMI, we don’t view our people simply as employees. First and foremost, they are human beings—and our aim is to ensure that every individual is embraced, nurtured, supported, and celebrated for who they are. 

This, in a nutshell, is why I enjoy my job so much. Because the moment your teams align their own—and each other’s—authentic personal and professional values, they become unstoppable.

We all have our unique characteristics and differences. I’m no exception. That’s why I’m grateful to be part of a company that has never expected me to be anyone but my true authentic self. 

Why is this so important? Because only with a workforce that reflects the world’s rich diversity can we deliver the right solutions for our consumers—and the most positive impact on society. 

Raising awareness and taking meaningful actions

For me, there is a three-staged approach toward helping every employee be the best, truest versions of themselves at work.

We must cultivate awareness of our differences—celebrating the stories, backgrounds, and lived experiences unique to each of us—to foster a deeper understanding—and appreciation—of the diversity within our workforce.

This enables us to address our own biases, break down invisible walls, and encourage greater community engagement—with the goal of welcoming more allies into the fold.

With these foundations in place, we must then take meaningful actions that embrace inclusivity, providing an environment in which everyone feels valued, supported, and heard—regardless of their differences.

The 100 percent success rate 

Of course, it’s a fact of corporate life that financial results cannot be guaranteed. But perhaps there’s more than one type of growth? Personally, I think sustainable, long-term growth is guaranteed when you invest your time, passion, and effort into building better communities within your workforce.

This, in a nutshell, is why I enjoy my job so much. Because the moment your teams align their own—and each other’s—authentic personal and professional values, they become unstoppable.

Collaboration becomes a joy, and fulfillment as natural as breathing, because your teams are bringing their true selves to work, every day.

Even if you are a phenomenal leader, there are many factors affecting your business that you can’t control. Sudden shifts in geopolitics and consumer trends, amongst other disruptions, can be unforeseen, often forcing us to pivot and change course.

But taking good care of the diverse range of people within your organization, such as the LGBTQ+ community, provides leaders with the opportunity to be 100 percent successful.    

Upholding principles beyond Pride Month

June marked Pride Month, a time to champion and heighten awareness of the LGBTQ+ community.

But, as we reflect on the wonderful, vibrant celebrations that took place around the world, we must remember to uphold these principles year-round.

Our dedication to our fellow employees doesn’t end with words—it’s reflected in our actions.

From integrating LGBTQ+ perspectives into our business strategy to partnering with the STRIPES employee resource group to implement policies and provide support, we’re committed to making inclusion a continuous, heartfelt endeavor.

At PMI, I believe that by promoting inclusivity, we will help individuals shine. This is a pursuit I find immensely gratifying on a personal level.

Leadership lessons in diversity

As a senior business leader, my advice to others is simple: Embrace diversity as a moral imperative.

An environment where a leader dominates discussions, dismisses diverse ideas, and disregards individuals with different perspectives is profoundly unhealthy for all concerned. The path to individual—and thereby company—growth lies in building organizations that foster an inclusive culture where every individual feels valued, heard, and empowered to bring their best, whole selves to work.

What I’m most proud of on my PMI journey to date is not the accolades or achievements, but the fact that, in a society that often demands conformity, I’ve remained true to myself, bringing my unique leadership traits to the table.

I haven’t had to change who I am to fit in, and that authenticity has been my strength. For me, that’s the measure of success—making a difference whilst staying true to who you are.

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