What companies are doing to fight systemic racism

A demonstrator holds a placard as people march during a Black Lives Matter protest, following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, in London, Britain June 20, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls - RC23DH96JAE3
World Economic Forum Members and Partners are building a more diverse, inclusive and equitable business community.
Image: REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
  • The killing of George Floyd inspired companies around the world to support the Black Lives Matter movement and take action to end systemic racism.
  • Racial diversity, inclusion and equity are good for business.
  • In recent weeks, World Economic Forum partners and members have donated billions to social justice organizations and launched new initiatives to make their own workplaces more inclusive and equitable.

The killing of George Floyd on 25 May 2020 by a Minnesota police officer sparked global outrage – and a long-overdue movement to end the systemic racism and inequality that have plagued not only US policing but also workplaces and communities.

Since then, citizens have been protesting in cities across the United States and around the world. Businesses and organizations are also taking action – by supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, tackling inequality in their own workplaces, donating to social justice organizations and using their platforms to promote racial diversity, inclusion and equity in the business community.

And improving diversity and inclusion in business isn't just the right thing to do – it's good business.

“Business has the transformative power to change and contribute to a more open, diverse and inclusive society. We can only accomplish this by starting from within our organizations,” wrote Vijay Eswaran, Executive Chairman of QI Group, a World Economic Forum Partner.

“Many of us know intuitively that diversity is good for business. The case for establishing a truly diverse workforce, at all organizational levels, grows more compelling each year. The moral argument is weighty enough, but the financial impact – as proven by multiple studies – makes this a no-brainer," he continued.

What's the World Economic Forum doing about diversity, equity and inclusion?

The COVID-19 pandemic and recent social and political unrest have created a profound sense of urgency for companies to actively work to tackle racial injustice and inequality. In response, the Forum's Platform for Shaping the Future of the New Economy and Society has established a high-level community of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officers. The community will develop a vision, strategies and tools to proactively embed equity into the post-pandemic recovery and shape long-term inclusive change in our economies and societies.

As businesses emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, they have a unique opportunity to ensure that equity, inclusion and justice define the "new normal" and tackle exclusion, bias and discrimination related to race, gender, ability, sexual orientation and all other forms of human diversity. It is increasingly clear that new workplace technologies and practices can be leveraged to significantly improve diversity, equity and inclusion outcomes.

The World Economic Forum has developed a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Toolkit, to outline the practical opportunities that this new technology represents for diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, while describing the challenges that come with it.

The toolkit explores how technology can help reduce bias from recruitment processes, diversify talent pools and benchmark diversity and inclusion across organisations. The toolkit also cites research that suggests well-managed diverse teams significantly outperform homogenous ones over time, across profitability, innovation, decision-making and employee engagement.

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Toolkit is available here.

Here are some examples of what World Economic Forum partners, corporations and other organizations are doing to end systemic racism.

Last Updated on 22 June 2020

PepsiCo CEO: "Black Lives Matter, to our company and to me."

That's what PepsiCo CEO Ramon Laguarta wrote in his recent op-ed in Fortune, in which he announced a commitment of $400 million over five years to "to lift up Black communities and increase Black representation at PepsiCo."

We know that the first step toward change is to speak up, so I want to be very clear: Black Lives Matter, to our company and to me.

—Ramon Laguarta, CEO of PepsiCo

The food and beverage company's efforts will focus on three pillars: people, business and communities.

  • People: PepsiCo will expand the company's Black managerial population by 30% by 2025, adding more than 250 Black associates to managerial roles. The company will also increase recruitment activities at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, establish scholarships for Black students and mandate company-wide unconscious-bias training.
  • Business: The company will double its spending with Black-owned suppliers, create more jobs for Black creators at its marketing agencies and invest $50 million over five years to strengthen local Black-owned businesses.
  • Communities: PepsiCo will invest an incremental $20 million over five years "to create opportunity and advance economic empowerment for Black Americans," including providing grants for social programmes in Black communities, provide mentorship, management training and financing for Black-owned restaurants and support Black non-profit CEOs.

The bottom line: This moment calls for big, structural changes, and we’re committed to being agents of that progress.

—Ramon Laguarta, CEO of PepsiCo

PepsiCo is a Strategic Partner of the World Economic Forum.

PayPal will invest $530 million to advance racial equity and inclusion

It is not enough for us to condemn racism. We must be anti-racist.

—Dan Schulman, President and CEO of PayPal

In a message to all employees, PayPal President and CEO Dan Schulman announced the company will invest $530 million to advance racial equity and inclusion.

The World Economic Forum Strategic Partner will do the following, among other initiatives:

  • Invest in diversity and inclusion at PayPal, including internal programming, community engagement and university and high school recruiting, pro-bono engagements and public advocacy initiatives. The company will also review its marketing materials to ensure they feature and celebrate the diversity of the PayPal community.
  • Create a $500 million opportunity fund "to support and strengthen Black and underrepresented minority businesses and communities over the long term, and to help drive financial health, access, and inter-generational wealth creation."
  • Provide $10 million in emergency grants to Black-owned businesses impacted by COVID-19 or the racial justice crisis in the United States.

Apple commits $100 million to new racial justice initiative

On 11 June 2020, World Economic Forum Partner Apple announced the launch of the Apple Racial Equity and Justice Initiative, with an investment of $100 million.

The tech company will focus on education, economic equality and criminal justice reform, said CEO Tim Cook. In particular, Apple will work with historically black colleges and universities, community colleges, STEM educators and underserved students as well as partner with the Equal Justice Initiative.

In addition, Apple will focus on "fostering and lifting up" developers of color and increase spending with Black-owned partners in the company's supply chain, as well as work to improve diversity and inclusion within the company's ranks.

The initiative will be led by Lisa Jackson, Apple's Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives.

Ginkgo Bioworks is working towards "a more equitable company, technology and society"

Gingko Bioworks is committing $1 million "towards building a more equitable company, technology, and society," wrote Jason Kelly, CEO and Co-Founder of Ginkgo Bioworks on 10 June 2020.

"This will take many forms, from programmes for recruiting, training, and inclusion within Ginkgo, to supporting and sponsoring organizations that promote the inclusion of marginalized communities in biotechnology," he continued.

The World Economic Forum Partner is an American synthetic biology company that programmes cells for customers in the chemical, pharmaceutical, food and energy industries – and working on "diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for COVID-19, which is disproportionately impacting communities of color."

The company will also work to improve diversity within it's own ranks, as currently only 2% of the team identifies as Black or African American.

LEGO is building a more inclusive company and world

LEGO is working to build a more inclusive company and world, one toy brick at a time.

The Forum Strategic Partner Associate is donating $4 million to organizations in the United States that support Black children and educate children about racial equality, according to the Dutch toy company's statement.

Furthermore, the company paused promotion of toy sets with police officers, firefighters, criminals, emergency vehicles and buildings out of respect for the Black Lives Matter protest movement.

"We requested that our affiliate partners refrain from posting promotional LEGO content as part of our decision to respect #BlackOutTuesday and pause posting content on our social media channels in response to the tragic events in the US," said a spokesperson.

A leader in diversity and inclusion, HP will donate half a million dollars to social justice organizations

"HP was built on values of diversity and inclusion, fairness and equity," wrote Enrique Lores, President & CEO of Forum Strategic Partner HP.

"There has never been a more important time for us to live by the values on which HP was founded. They give us the light to lead through even the darkest days. And each of us can play important roles in advancing our best ideals and treating others with human kindness," he continued.

On 4 June 2020, HP announced the HP Foundation would donate $500,000 to social justice organizations and double-match employee contributions.

HP has long been recognized as a leader in diversity and inclusion. It has the most diverse board in the US technology industry, and 63% of its US hires in 2019 were from underrepresented groups.

Recognizing that its numbers of Black and African American employees is nevertheless not where it should be, it plans to double its number of Black and African American executives by 2025.

Read more about the company's efforts here.

Verizon and Uber commit millions to police reform

Two World Economic Forum partners are donating millions combined to organizations working towards police reform in the United States.

Forum Strategic Partner Uber Technologies announced it will donate a total of $1 million to two criminal justice reform organizations, the Center for Policing Equity and the Equal Justice Initiative.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi tweeted that "lasting change will only come from reforming the systems that have led us to where we are today."

Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, President and Co-Founder of the Center for Policing Equity, is a Schwab Foundation Social Innovator and was named the organization’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year in 2019. He spoke about his work in Davos in January 2020:

Similarly, Forum Strategic Partner Associate Verizon Communications has committed $10 million to seven social justice organizations: the National Urban League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), National Action Network, Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, Rainbow Push Coalition, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

"I am hopeful that the rest of the country will come to understand that valuing everyone equally is the best way forward. We cannot commit to a brand purpose of moving the world forward unless we are committed to helping ensure we move it forward for everyone. We stand united as one Verizon,” said Verizon Chairman and CEO Hans Vestberg.

Verizon will build upon its already strong track record of diversity and inclusion. Four of the company's 9 board members are women or people of color, and 59.3% of the company's workforce is diverse.

Learn more about Verizon's diversity and inclusion efforts here.

5 things Visa is doing to promote "action, dialogue and change"

On 3 June 2020, Forum Strategic Partner Visa announced they will do five things to promote "action, dialogue and change." They are:

1. Establish a $10 million fund to create a dedicated Visa scholarship assistance programme over the next five years, specifically for college-bound Black and African American students.

2. Double match Visa employee donations to key social justice organizations including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund during the month of June, up to $1 million.

3. Hold open forums to encourage dialogue.

4. Offer 24/7 counselling and referral services for Visa's Black and African American employees.

5. Provide guidance and direction for leaders to facilitate meaningful ongoing dialogue with teams, and specifically with Black and African American employees.

In the wake of George Floyd's death, Cisco postpones major event

Forum Strategic Partner Cisco took a strong stand by postponing their biggest consumer event, Cisco Live, just a few hours before it was supposed to be held.

“Today, we find ourselves facing another pandemic. Not one that is new by any means, but one we must confront. The recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and so many more before them are horrific, maddening and truly abhorrent," said CEO Chuck Robbins.

The company pledged $5 million to charities dedicated to fighting racism and discrimination.

Originally scheduled for 2-3 June 2020, the event was postponed to later in the month.

Bank of America pledges $1 billion to fighting economic and racial inequalities

World Economic Forum Strategic Partner Bank of America is getting to the root of systemic racism with pledge of $1 billion over four years "to help local communities address economic and racial inequality accelerated by a global pandemic," the company said on 2 June 2020.

The company will focus on four areas: health, jobs/training/reskilling/upskilling, support to small businesses and housing.

Working through the company's 90 local US market presidents and non-US country executives, programmes will include virus testing, telemedicine, flu vaccination clinics and other health services for communities of color; partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic-serving institutions in the United States for hiring and research programmes; and recruitment and retention of employees from low- to moderate-income and disadvantaged communities, to name just a few.

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan put it simply: "We all need to do more."

Merck's CEO: George Floyd "could be me"

Merck’s CEO Kenneth Frazier – who is Black – reflected on systemic racism in the United States shortly after the death of George Floyd.

“I know for sure that what put my life on a different trajectory was that someone intervened to give me an opportunity, to close that opportunity gap. And that opportunity gap is still there,” he told CNBC.

“What the African American community sees in that videotape is that this African American man, who could be me or any other African American man, is being treated as less than human,” he said.

Merck (MSD) is a World Economic Forum Strategic Partner.

Healthcare speaks out

COVID-19 has exacerbated racial inequalities in the US healthcare system – and the killing of unarmed African Americans is an epidemic in and of itself. Across the country, healthcare executives and organizations are speaking out on both issues.

“A hugely disproportionate share of COVID-19 cases in the United States are among African Americans and other minorities. Many of these people work or worked in healthcare, transportation, emergency or other essential services, yet our society fails to treat them with the dignity that every American not only deserves but is entitled to under the U.S. Constitution,” said the leaders of CommonSpirit health in a 1 June 2020 letter.

“Having seen the impacts of systemic racism in healthcare for decades, these recent events sharpen our resolve to demand justice, truth and dignity for all,” they continued.

“Our work does not end with this letter,” said Forum Associate Partner Duke Health’s President and CEO in a very personal letter. “I assure you that Duke Health leadership is dedicated to developing solutions that help strengthen us and shape a stronger tomorrow.”

Jacobs CEO: "Join me in reinforcing our values"

Steve Demetriou, Chair & CEO of Jacobs, World Economic Forum Strategic Partner Associate, got personal about the importance of diversity and inclusion in a call to action on LinkedIn:

"I remember the day we adopted our son Reggie. He was 14 years old. I couldn’t have been happier or prouder to call him son. I also remember when I had to have ‘the talk’. Because my son Reggie happens to be Black," said Demetriou.

He urged his colleagues at Jacobs and the broader business community stand up for what is right:

We do things right. We challenge the accepted. We aim higher. We live inclusion. Join me in reinforcing our values – day in and day out.

—Steve Demetriou, Chair & CEO, Jacobs

Nike: “Don’t Do It.”

Mere days after George Floyd was killed, Nike reversed its iconic slogan in an online video:

“Don't pretend there's not a problem in America. Don't turn your back on racism. Don't accept innocent lives being taken from us. Don't make any more excuses. Don't think this doesn't affect you. Don't sit back and be silent,” said Nike.

The move sparked solidarity – even from long-time rival, Adidas – which retweeted the video, saying, “Together is how we make change.”

Cargill, EY, Ecolab and more companies commit to change

While companies typically try to avoid controversy, the death of George Floyd and subsequent protests in cities across the United States made it impossible for corporations to remain silent on systemic racism.

On 28 May 2020, more than 55 CEOs of global corporations based in Minnesota – including Forum Strategic Partner EY and Forum Partners Cargill and Ecolabcommitted to “investing in substantive change” within their organizations to address racial inequity and injustice.

“We are committed to taking steps to eliminate the repeat of events like this in our society and committed to investing in substantive change in our organizations and the communities we serve to address racial inequities and social justice. Change has to start today, and it needs to start with us,” they said in the letter.

What's the World Economic Forum doing about diversity, equity and inclusion?

The COVID-19 pandemic and recent social and political unrest have created a profound sense of urgency for companies to actively work to tackle racial injustice and inequality. In response, the Forum's Platform for Shaping the Future of the New Economy and Society has established a high-level community of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officers. The community will develop a vision, strategies and tools to proactively embed equity into the post-pandemic recovery and shape long-term inclusive change in our economies and societies.

As businesses emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, they have a unique opportunity to ensure that equity, inclusion and justice define the "new normal" and tackle exclusion, bias and discrimination related to race, gender, ability, sexual orientation and all other forms of human diversity. It is increasingly clear that new workplace technologies and practices can be leveraged to significantly improve diversity, equity and inclusion outcomes.

The World Economic Forum has developed a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Toolkit, to outline the practical opportunities that this new technology represents for diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, while describing the challenges that come with it.

The toolkit explores how technology can help reduce bias from recruitment processes, diversify talent pools and benchmark diversity and inclusion across organisations. The toolkit also cites research that suggests well-managed diverse teams significantly outperform homogenous ones over time, across profitability, innovation, decision-making and employee engagement.

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Toolkit is available here.

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