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Author: Aleena Gardezi

Carnival Corp: “Diversity is Who We Are”

Posted December 15, 2016

With 120,000 employees around the world representing seven continents, diversity has always been fundamental to Carnival Corporation and its 10 global brands. The focus on diversity – and the competitive advantage that diversity of thinking provides in fostering innovation – has continued to grow under the company’s CEO, Arnold Donald. During his three-plus years as CEO, the company has appointed diverse and dynamic leaders to serve as presidents of several of its cruise line brands and various roles within destination services, human resources, marketing and sales, operations and global procurement.

Carlos F. Orta, Vice President, Corporate Affairs explains to DIVERGE why diversity is “an imperative” for the Carnival Corporation. 


Carlos Orta

What makes your company stand out in terms of your diversity initiatives?

Carnival Corporation embraces and values diversity and inclusion (D&I). Our commitment to D&I is reflected not only in our diverse workforce of 120,000 employees from more than 60 countries, but also our 10 brands, over 700 ports of call and 11 million customers annually. D&I is who we are and part of our DNA.

Carnival Corporation is one of the few Fortune 500 global companies that have an African American CEO at the helm of its business. As CEO of Carnival Corporation, Arnold Donald says on the diversity and inclusion section of the company’s website: “diversity is a business imperative. The key to innovation is diversity of thinking. Having people from different backgrounds and different cultural experiences who are organized around a common objective is far more likely to create breakthrough innovation than a homogenous group. That same diversity of thinking is a powerful advantage.”

We are strengthened and enriched by the collective power of the diversified makeup of our leadership and our teams. Julia M. Brown, an African-American, serves as chief procurement officer for the corporation. Arnie Perez, a Cuban-American, has served as Carnival Corporation’s general counsel since 1996. Orlando Ashford, an African-American, serves as president for Holland America Line.

As another example, here’s a look at the small group of employees who work specifically for Carnival Corporation, as opposed to the cruise line brands that comprise the majority of the company’s employees. The group includes a total of 537 employees, of which 283 are ethnic minorities. In 2015, a total of 80 new employees were hired; of those new hires, half were ethnic minorities. Carnival Corporation’s five U.S. based brands: Carnival, Fathom, Holland America, Princess and Seabourn are led by women, minorities and/or a member of the LGBT community. Additionally, 30 percent of Arnold Donald’s direct reports are women or minorities, including our general counsel who is Hispanic.

Carnival Corporation and the Carnival Foundation support numerous business and philanthropic organizations in the U.S., including The United Negro College Fund (UNCF), the Miami-Dade Chamber, Sant La Haitian Neighborhood Center, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, the Hispanic National Bar Association and the South Florida Hispanic Chamber, among others.

Earlier this year, the Carnival Foundation contributed $2 million to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History & Culture. In 2015, the Carnival Foundation donated $5 million to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami to create the Carnival Center for Excellence, the largest gift ever received by the organization’s Miami chapter.

Which one are you most proud of?

We are proud of all of our efforts and accomplishments. Having a CEO who values and embraces diversity of thinking is one of the keys to our success. This reflection of diversity at the highest level has a positive impact inside and outside the organization. Since 2013, the company has created new roles that have been filled with diverse employees who have contributed to the company’s success.

Carnival Corporation’s market cap has grown from roughly $25 billion to over $40 billion since Arnold Donald became CEO in July 2013 (through the end of 2015. The company generated 40 percent earnings per share (EPS) growth for 2015 – on top of 25 percent EPS growth in 2014 – during Arnold Donald’s first full two full years as CEO. Guidance from Q3 2016 earnings is that the company is on track for another 25 percent EPS growth for the full year 2016.

It is a top corporate goal to reach double-digit return on invested capital in the next two to three years. Return on invested capital is on pace to nearly double from 4.6 percent in July 2013 to a projected 8.8 percent by the end of 2016, as we appear on track to hit this mark — thanks in part to competitive advantage that comes from the diversity of a very talented and passionate leadership team and group of employees.

New and diverse hires across Carnival Corporation and its brands have helped provide diverse onboard and shore experiences. From cultural exchanges in Cuba, to the diverse selection of our many suppliers around the world, we strive to give our guests a true global experience.

In October of this year, Carnival Corporation launched new, original television shows airing Saturday mornings featuring hosts with diverse backgrounds — “The Voyager with Josh Garcia” airing on the ABC network– and “Vacation Creation with star and comedian from “In Living Color” Tommy Davidson” on the CW network.

Why is diversity so important to your company?

Carnival Corporation firmly believes diversity is a business imperative. Our 10 brands travel to the seven continents and engage many cultures. It is important to Carnival Corporation that we understand the needs and desires of our guests encompassing all ethnic and cultural groups of the population. One of the best ways to do so is to make diversity and inclusion a top priority. The innovative experiences offered on our ships and around our ports stem from insights brought forth by talented employees from diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

There’s incredible diversity among the 11 million guests expected to join us in 2016. That’s about half of everyone in the world who will have the extraordinary experience of a cruise vacation this year. We succeed because we have leaders and employees who are uniquely positioned to understand and serve this diverse audience.

carlos-orta-headshot-white-backgroundHow do you create an inclusive environment?

At Carnival Corporation, we’ve created an environment where all opinions are heard and respected; it’s the “diversity of thinking.” We have diverse individuals leading our brands. As D&I is part of Carnival Corporation’s corporate social responsibility, we have partnered with organizations aligned with us to drive “our business imperative”, including:

Catalyst, a leading nonprofit organization whose mission is to expand opportunities for women in business.

The Executive Leadership Council, an organization once led by Arnold Donald, consisting of African-Americans who are or were previously CEOs and senior executives at Fortune 500 companies.

The Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, Inc. (LEAP), a vehicle to develop future leaders that ensures full participation and equality for Asian and Pacific Islanders through leadership, empowerment and policy.

The Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, whose mission is to advance the inclusion of Hispanics in corporate America at a level of commensurate with economic contributions.

Why should companies focus on diversity?

At Carnival Corporation, a focus on diversity drives continuous improvement and ongoing innovation that allows us to consistently exceed guest expectations. In doing so, we gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Harnessing differences also makes for a more positive and harmonious environment, externally and internally.