Passion for Diversity
Carlos Orta is on a mission
Carlos Orta is a man with a mission. The newly minted VP and Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Officer at Tyson Foods wants his company to mirror its customers. “Tyson has been on a DEI journey for some time,” he explains. “In order to build a ‘Best in Class’ DEI business unit, Tyson has invested in the resources needed, which include an officer-level position on the senior leadership team and the necessary tools to partner with trusted nonprofits who will celebrate our milestones and hold us accountable. I am humbled and honored to lead these efforts, working alongside thousands of amazing team members.”
Tyson Foods is one of the world’s largest food companies, with $43.2 billion of net revenue in 2020. In his new role, Carlos is responsible for developing and implementing the company’s DEI strategy and “furthering equality and inclusion in the business as well as in the communities where the company operates.” Carlos reports directly to John R. Tyson, EVP of Strategy and Chief Sustainability Officer, and great-grandson of the company’s founder.
Tyson’s commitment to diversity clearly begins at the top. Serving on the company’s Board of Directors is Maria Claudia Borras, a Colombia-born oil and gas executive at Baker Hughes. She followed former board member Al Zapanta, CEO of the US-Mexico Chamber of Commerce. In the C-suite is Ildefonso Silva, Executive VP, Business Services. A veteran of McKinsey with degrees from Brazil and France, he’s a member of the Enterprise Leadership Team reporting to the CEO. Approximately 28% of employees at the company identify as Hispanic or LatinX.
During the pandemic, Tyson partnered with Latino organizations such as the League of United Latin American citizens (LULAC) to educate team members on COVID-19 vaccinations and encourage vaccination. By the end of May, approximately 44,000 Tyson employees had been vaccinated. As of November 1, over 96% of Tyson’s active U.S. team members have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Orta clearly relishes the challenge of continuing this journey and is bringing to it all his experience in corporate America as well as the nonprofit sector. The Cuban-born executive arrived with his parents in Miami in 1971. Orta graduated from Barry University with a liberal arts degree and went on to work for three Fortune 500 companies: Waste Management, Ford Motor Company and Anheuser Busch. This took him to several parts of the country, including Atlanta, Detroit, Kansas City and Washington, D.C., where he became the President and CEO of the Hispanic Association of Corporate Responsibility (HACR).
In 2014, Orta returned to Miami and joined Carnival Corporation as Vice President of Corporate Affairs. At the cruise line, he had responsibility for the areas of state and local government relations and led the company’s diversity efforts. Back in his hometown, Orta also served as Chairman of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. There he focused on issues that mattered to the local community such as education and making it easier for people to start businesses, as well as increasing membership and installing a board as diverse as Miami itself.
In his career, Orta clearly followed his own advice, for he once told young Latino professionals: “If you join Corporate America, you will have to relocate two or three times. It’s important to understand that, in order to rise up through the ranks. You need to go where the opportunities are!”
Now, Orta has found a home in Fayetteville, Arkansas, not too far from Tyson’s headquarters. “It’s got a nice balance,” he says, adding that Northwest Arkansas become increasingly diverse in recent years, with a Latino population of 18%. Already preparing for post-COVID travel, Orta notes that there’s also an airport with direct flights to most of the country.
Since he joined Tyson in June 2021, Orta has been on what he calls a “listening tour,” getting to know the 95-year-old company. One of his stops was the Business Resource Group (BRG) called LATINX, which “embraces and celebrates the uniqueness of the Hispanic and Latino heritage.” It’s chair is Adri Graham, an HACR Young Hispanic Corporate Achiever™.
Orta has found that his new employer has “a passion for diversity, inclusion and equity.” He describes the equity part of the equation as “providing opportunities for those who don’t have them, or who’ve been left out, but not at the expense of others.”
This mission is deeply personal for Orta, who says, “My parents gave up everything they had to come to this country. Growing up, I felt it was my responsibility to ensure that opportunities offered to me were also available to others.”