Black Lives Matter: The Corporate Sector Responds

Across all industries, companies are publicly responding to the outcry for justice after the protests surrounding George Floyd’s death last week. CEOs are speaking out on behalf of their influential brands against the injustices of racism, next step in building safe spaces and workplace equity.

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Across all industries, companies are publicly responding to the outcry for justice after the protests surrounding George Floyd’s death. Increasingly CEOs are speaking out on behalf of their influential brands against the injustices of racism and as the next step in the journey of building safe spaces and workplace equity for their employees of color.

As CSR professionals that work regularly to support employee engagement in their communities, you may be in a position to influence company response to both internal and external audiences. The following trends offer a framework for responding to the urgency of the moment and opportunities for organizational growth.

“Say Their Names”

In the wake of the death of George Floyd, companies are publishing letters from their CEOs formally taking a stand in support of the black community. One after another, industry executives are opening their public comments by explicitly identifying the victims of police brutality including the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, but also acknowledging Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile and more. Through this public acknowledgment, leaders are seeking to raise awareness as a path to understanding and signal a commitment to change.

Lifting up Company Values of Diversity and Inclusion

In a show of support for equity and to affirm their values to employees, many companies are re-establishing their policies around nondiscrimination, equal treatment and inclusivity while assuring accountability for any misconduct and unfair practices within their firms. Across the board, companies are declaring to employees, customers, vendors and stakeholders an organizational belief that racism of any kind is intolerable. In many cases, and some for the first time, CEOs are stating “Black Lives Matter.” This is influential, but not surprising as 92 percent of employees surveyed in the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer say that they expect their employer’s CEO to speak up on one or more issues ranging from income inequality to diversity.

Driving Internal Action to Further Diversity, Inclusion and Equity within the Company

While stating company values surrounding D&I is important, many companies have committed to furthering their efforts not only externally, but internally as well. Several press releases are announcing company-wide town halls around anti-racism, expanded funding of their business resource groups, increased allocation of volunteer time off to increase community engagement, and toolkits or manuals for managers to navigate conversations with their team around anti-racism and inclusivity.

Contributing to Solutions

As CEOs address their employees and the greater community, they are also backing their commitments with financial contributions to the work of national organization like Black Lives Matter, the Equal Justice Initiative, the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union. Some companies are creating funds for the families of victims or local, grassroots organizations leading collaborative community efforts. Also trending is the elevation of matching gifts programs based on either volunteer time spent or personal employee donation to aligned nonprofit organizations.

Demonstrating Optimism for a More Equitable Future

In closing, executives are signing off with a hopeful tone. While these formal announcements are targeting the realities faced by communities of color, they are also striving for more inclusive and equitable workplaces. Many letters included messaging such as, “You are not alone,” and “we stand with you,” or “together we will change the world.” Paired with concrete next steps, often driven by executives, employee resource groups, and diversity officers, leaders are signaling an understanding of both the urgency to act and the truth revealed by George Floyd’s death; Companies can no longer sit on the sidelines.


These companies follow the discussed trends leading the way in corporate response. As you consider these trends, know that it is certain public statements are key to addressing society’s most pressing issues, but it is action to back up those statements that contribute to sustainable, lasting change. The corporate sector is being called to do more than state their values, but rather practice those values through their policies, hiring practices, and community support. Take this to heart as you seek to reassure your stakeholders of your company’s values. 

Click each company to read their public commitment to anti-racism in light of these events:

As an additional resource, Starbucks has developed a global academy for conversation “designed to address bias through understanding the human experience.” Learn more about To Be Welcoming at https://tobewelcoming.com/.

 

Go to the profile of Em Clarke

Em Clarke

Senior Manager, Corporate Solutions , Points of Light

Em Clarke has been with Points of Light for a year and a half working with corporate clients through POL's Corporate Solutions consulting practice. She is motivated by her work evaluating corporate accountability and social responsibility and has spent the last five years dedicated to improving the well being of local communities through global strategy and ensuring marginalized voices are heard when funders and decision makers choose to take interest. Upon receipt of her Master of Nonprofit Management and Leadership from The University of Georgia, she joined the United Way system for several years before transitioning to Points of Light. Her professional experiences include managing teams of executives working collectively to design enterprise-wide programming, volunteer days of service, and funding strategies.
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