OBV Profile: Chris Mullard

Chris Mullard is co-founder of Focus Consultancy, a company dedicated to diversity recruitment, training, research and change management. Established in 1986, in the twenty-one years of its existence it has expanded its operations nationally and internationally.

One of its recent larger clients is the Paris based-company L’Oreal, where Focus is presently providing consultancy services and training to senior management teams in 24 countries. Another of Focus’s contracts involves consultancy work for the Borders & Immigration Agency at the Home Office.

One of Focus’s many achievements has been an increase in the level of ethnic minority candidates recruited into the British Army, from less than one per cent to over eight per cent. There are certainly a lot more Black faces among the guards at Buckingham Palace today.

Describing the essence of Focus, Mullard says: “It’s about acknowledging diversity in terms of its crucial impact on both social and economic structures. Today, we have a diverse globalised market place which includes people who are Black, Asian, disabled and gay. So it’s not just about training people about the Disability Act or Race Relations Act - we’ve moved into diversity training on a global scale as an indispensable management tool.”

Focus Consultancy is by no means Mullard’s only success. He is also Chairman of the Bernie Grant Trust, and for the past six years he has been Chairman of London Notting Hill Carnival. Furthermore, he is Founder and Patron of the Slavery Memorial Trust.

A father of three, Mullard, whose own parents were of English and Caribbean origin, was born in England and grew up in rural Hampshire but moved to London at the age of 16.

His political awareness was apparent from a very early age. When he was 15, Chris was one of the few Black people who marched on the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).

Explaining why he became politically active so young, he says: “As a young man there was the drive to enter politics because of the inequality that existed in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s. There was no independence of the Caribbean or Africa. I suppose it was inevitable that I should become a champion for justice and equality.”

Mullard went on to study Sociology at Durham University and later completed a PhD on the political sociology of race.

In the 1960s, Mullard helped set up and was Secretary of the Campaign against Racial Discrimination (CARD), the organisation which was instrumental in the passing of the Race Relations Acts of 1965 and 1968. For his endeavours in the field of race relations, in 2004 he was awarded a CBE.

It was during the 1960s that he met the civil rights activist, Martin Luther King. Although meeting Black leaders like King, he says, “it has been a great honour, but the most significant thing has been working for people who are discriminated against and oppressed”.

One of his most recent political appointments is that of Honorary Consul General for the Republic of South Africa, through which he helps promote the interests and struggles of South Africa for equality and justice.

He is an established author, having written six books on social issues, race relations and development. His titles include “Black Britain” published in 1973 and “Race, Power and Resistance” in 1980. Formerly Professor of Education and Ethnic Studies at the University of Amsterdam, he has been a Visiting Professor at the University of London and is currently Visiting Professor at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester.

For the past 40 years, he has been a Labour Party member on and off. He recalls that the Thatcherite years were a time when the amount of racism, classism and sexism in society was “phenomenal”. He believes that attitudes in the Labour Party towards equality issues have changed dramatically over the years, as he has found from his work as an advisor to past and present government ministers.

For the future, Mullard sees his life continuing in much the same vein, from his work in business with Focus Consultancy to his work in the voluntary sector, chairing organisations like the Bernie Grant Trust. He says: “I believe in effecting change - making change happen - and making sure there is an equitable distribution of resources in society.”

He also wants to continue writing and has plans to publish in 2008 a collection of the papers he wrote during the 80s and 90s on the subject of multiculturalism.