While George Floyd’s name will be forever tied to the social
unrest currently sparked around the globe, countless names have come before, innumerable
systemic social inequities have risen to the surface due to COVID-19, and
dozens of similar incidents continue to highlight the need for lasting change.
This is not the first time we’ve been here, but many
long-time social justice activists believe that this time is different.
Calls for sweeping political and institutional reforms are
swiftly being address by some state and local governments—and corporations are
to calls from their employees and customers to be long-term partners in
In a pulse survey fielded this week by the Institute for
Corporate Productivity (i4cp), almost 90% of respondents representing
larger companies (those that employ >1,000 people) reported that their
organizations are taking some type of action in response to the death of George
Floyd, even if that action is a continuation of current I&D efforts.
Further, 60% said
that their organizations are taking action specifically in response to
the murder of George Floyd and the resulting social unrest. Of those expanding
their efforts, 72% are looking internally to address biases within their
organizations, while 33% are also focusing externally to help address systemic
problems in society.
Companies that are focused
internally are doing so in a variety of ways. More broadly focused or
in-the-moment efforts include reaffirming their inclusive values (78%),
combining efforts to support all groups that face discrimination (44%), and/or
bringing in consultants to lead discussions about race (26%).
Efforts that more directly create change include increased
anti-racism and anti-bias training for leaders and managers (52%), providing
additional resources or assistance to impacted employees (29%), and/or
conducting bias audits of existing norms and practices (22%).
Many survey respondents reported
that their organizations are equally committed to action but are currently in a
listening-phase before determining what actions to take. These firms are
sponsoring employee-led listening sessions (65%), forming a standing action
team that will address the issues and propose actions (49%), tapping into
ERG/BRGs to help develop action plans (46%), or are otherwise in the process of
deciding where to focus their efforts (23%).
External actions that employers are taking to address social
inequities and racial justice in the long-term are less prevalent, but have
visible and important in shaping public perceptions. The most common
external action is donations to organizations focused on racial justice – some
of which have made
headlines—cited by 43% of respondents.
Others are combining efforts through partnerships, either in
the communities where they operate (36%) or with third-party organizations that
focus on racial justice (28%). Only 8% reported looking at or changing
political donations or lobbying activities.
Where applicable, 26% reported working to ensure equal
access or enhance business offerings or services to underrepresented
communities. This is crucial in addressing systemic racism, as access to
financial services, housing, healthcare, employment, business resources, and
education have been fundamental obstacles for black and brown communities.
Beyond their internal offerings, 20% of organizations are
starting or increasing funding for supplier diversity programs, while 15% are
requiring greater supplier diversity from their partners.
While almost half of organizations don’t have a specific
element of systemic racism that they plan to address, the top six reported are:
- Employment (31%)
- Education disparities (23%)
- Healthcare access (21%)
- Income gap (13%)
- Racial profiling (12%)
- Housing discrimination (7%)
Others cited industry or field specific representation,
public health disparities (beyond access), food insecurity, and financial
The struggle for racial justice in the U.S. and abroad has a
long, convoluted, and often stagnant history marked by major social upheavals
like the one we are in now. To make this moment one that creates lasting change
to our societal underpinnings takes commitment, determination, and a rejection
of the inevitable backlashes we’ve seen in the past. With forward-thinking
companies putting their cultures to the test like never before, lasting change
is possible. So, what is your organization doing to be part of the solution?