NEW YORK — Lenovo chief communications officer Torod Neptune has said that the company's agency partners must be held accountable if they are to "move beyond talking" and demonstrate genuine progress on diversity and inclusion.

Neptune made the comments to the Holmes Report after initiating a $6m agency RFI focusing on the technology giant's global PR requirements. The brief calls for participating agencies to provide gender and ethnicity staff statistics, and comes as the PR industry attempts to better reflect the diversity of the societies in which it operates.

"We have asked each agency to share their diversity and inclusion philosophy and how it aligns with delivering business results and to confidentially disclose their diversity and inclusion (ethnicity and gender) staff statistics broken out by both categories – excluding administrative personnel," said Neptune.

While agencies are not being provided with specific benchmarks or targets, Neptune said their diversity statistics will be evaluated in line with Lenovo’s employee and customer demographic data. "For example, currently at Lenovo women comprises 34% of the company’s global workforce and 16% of the company’s executive ranks," explained Neptune. "Additionally, in the US, people of color constitute 33% of the general employee population and 21% of the company’s executive ranks."

An agency source familiar with the process told the Holmes Report that such measures on the part of clients are becoming increasingly common, as a way to mandate greater diversity across an industry that has struggled to transform its talent base. In a similar vein, HP chief marketing and communications officer Antonio Lucio has specified that the company's agencies must improve leadership diversity within one year.

"This is smart of Lenovo," said the agency source. "You need diverse talent across clients and agencies to do work that is truly relevant and will resonate."

Neptune admits that neither he nor "any of my peers would say we’re happy about the state of diversity across the marketing services discipline today." But he adds that he is "hopeful and impatient" about the problem being addressed. "We know the problem; we’ve studied the issue more than we have most business problems today; we know what needs to be done. There is not some great, undiscovered insight that remains unearthed here. I’m not suggesting that the answer is easy either, but it is certainly not as complex as we have made it appear."

Accordingly, he is calling on agencies to demonstrate "leadership and courage", which he believes must come from the C-suite, in line with CCNY's recent research in this area.

"If we are truly committed to collectively addressing this challenge, we’ve got to act," said Neptune. "I am committed to doing my part to create an environment where we hold our both companies and our agency partners accountable for moving beyond talking points to actual progress evidenced by results."