To accelerate the progress and impact of business efforts to address racial equity, Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals (ACCP), Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose (CECP), The Council on Foundations, and Points of Light collaborated to host a two-day conference titled, “Racial Equity: Moving Companies from Promise to Action.”
Designed for corporate social responsibility (CSR) and philanthropy leaders and their cross-functional colleagues from across lines of business, the event brought together diverse perspectives from thought leaders representing academia, business, nonprofits, and philanthropy. Attendees listened to voices in the movement for racial equity, learned what peer companies are doing, identified actions to advance corporate anti-racism commitments, and framed strategies for sector accountability in a supportive community.
Key take-aways from the event included:
- Ending 400 years of systemic racism will be a journey, not a quick fix. Companies and leaders have to approach this movement for change with grace – requiring an open heart and willingness to accept criticism.
- Employees are an important litmus test. Listen to and act on the feedback provided by employee resource groups. Companies must learn from their employees’ lived experiences and perceptions.
- Companies cannot separate themselves from the communities in which they operate. Real progress will come from showing up authentically, building trust, and taking cues from what the community says it needs.
- Corporate leaders should unlock change. Progress at a company occurs when CEOs commit to creating space for conversation, taking action, and owning and leading measurable change within their company. Diversity in boards of directors and senior leadership teams can hold companies accountable and strengthen the business outcomes from addressing racial equity.
- Businesses know how to build markets and advocate for laws and regulations. They now must apply that same imagination and their capacity for innovation to address systemic racism.
Speakers represented a cross-section of disciplines, including Ana Marie Argilagos, President and CEO, Hispanics in Philanthropy; Susan Taylor Batten, President and CEO, ABFE: A Philanthropic Partnership for Black Communities; Liz Dozier, Founder and CEO, Chicago Beyond; Lisa Hamilton, President and CEO, Annie E. Casey Foundation; Fagan Harris, President & CEO, Baltimore Corps; Michael McAfee, CEO, PolicyLink; Marcus Owens, Executive Director, African American Leadership Forum; Edgar Villanueva, Founder and Chief Strategist, Decolonizing Wealth Project; Darren Walker, President, Ford Foundation; Joan Williams, Distinguished Professor and Director, Center for WorkLife Law, University of California, Hastings Law; and representatives from the National Millennial & GenZ Community; as well as corporate leaders who are framing change efforts inside their organizations.
Sessions were geared toward CSR, corporate philanthropy, human resources, and diversity, equity, and inclusion professionals, as well as C-Suite leaders and cross-organization executives. The agenda, speakers, and content for this convening received feedback from an independent review panel of experts from many sectors so the event could inform and guide both racial equity practice and decisions for corporate leaders. The focus of the content was to elevate voices in the community, with opportunities for attendees to assess and test their companies’ paths forward with peers.
“Earlier this year, corporations of all types and sizes made important declarations against systemic racism and commitments to advance racial equity within their organizations and in the communities they support,” said Carolyn Berkowitz, President & CEO, ACCP. “The information shared over the past two days provided much-needed dialogue and guidance to begin shaping sustainable action plans. ACCP is proud to have been part of this collaboration and we look forward to leaning into our own commitment to racial equity both internally and as we serve our members.”
“Decades of pledges from corporations and institutions to make real changes against systemic racism in the U.S. have gone unfulfilled. The confluence of Covid-19 and the continued brutality against and inequitable opportunities for people of color have pushed our country and communities to demand more now,” said Kari Niedfeldt-Thomas, Managing Director, CECP. “This event was designed to challenge corporate leaders to think and show up differently in their work so they reimagine new, authentic actions to unravel racism in their companies and serve as beacons of justice. My thanks to all participants and their companies for their humility, vulnerability, and willingness to join this movement.”
“In the reckoning with racial injustice, corporate philanthropy leaders are realizing the fundamental shifts and long-term commitments necessary to unlock their contribution to the promise of racial equity,” said Kathleen Enright, President and CEO, Council on Foundations. “The Council on Foundations and our partners in this event stand ready to support their work so that together we can change the systems that advantage some and disadvantage others and instead work toward an America where everyone thrives.”
“Systemic racism impacts all of us. Inequities in systems are built and dismantled one decision at a time. But when we listen, learn and take action, we have the power to dismantle those systems too — one decision at a time,” said Natalye Paquin, president & CEO, Points of Light. “It is our belief that every action matters. This conference brought the best thinking from academia, nonprofits, and philanthropy to those change-makers inside of companies who wanted to have difficult conversations about racism in a framework that would allow them to gain understanding and learn how to take action that is accountable and impactful.”
This event builds upon collaborative work that started when the Covid-19 pandemic hit in the spring of 2020. During that time, ACCP, CECP, Council on Foundations, and Points of Light came together to support leaders of corporate purpose in acting with courage and determination to respond to the compounding health and economic crises.
Throughout a Corporate Peer Discussion series co-hosted by the four partner organizations, many companies emphasized the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on communities of color and considered how to redirect their strategies to focus on more equitable outcomes. The urgency of the moment was amplified after the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent national movement for racial justice. This virtual event, “Racial Equity: Moving Companies from Promise to Action”, is a continuation of the partnership and intends to support and equip companies with the knowledge and insights to progress on their journeys.
The conference organizers thank its sponsors for making the event possible: Bank of America, Charles Schwab, KPMG, and USAA.
For media inquiries, please contact Jackie Albano ([email protected]).
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ABOUT ASSOCIATION OF CORPORATE CITIZENSHIP PROFESSIONALS (ACCP)
The Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals is the membership association for companies with a commitment to corporate citizenship, and a career-long resource for purpose-driven professionals. ACCP nurtures a vibrant community where corporate citizenship professionals feel supported and valued, where complex problems can be solved, and where members challenge each other to build better outcomes for their employees, their communities, their consumers, and the world. ACCP connects its members through a host of in-person and virtual peer networking opportunities. ACCP challenges its community through educational offerings, thought leadership, benchmarking data, and relevant tools and information. ACCP champions the corporate citizenship profession and the important work its members do every day. Learn more at www.accp.org.
ABOUT CHIEF EXECUTIVES FOR CORPORATE PURPOSE (CECP)
Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose® (CECP) is a CEO-led coalition that believes that a company’s social strategy—how it engages with key stakeholders including employees, communities, investors, and customers—determines company success. Founded in 1999 by actor and philanthropist Paul Newman and other business leaders to create a better world through business, CECP has grown to a movement of more than 200 of the world’s largest companies that represent $11.2 trillion in revenues, $23 billion in total community investments, 14 million employees, 30 million hours of employee engagement, and $21 trillion in assets under management. CECP helps companies transform their social strategy by providing customized connections and networking, counsel and support, benchmarking and trends, and awareness building and recognition. For more information, visit http://cecp.co.
ABOUT THE COUNCIL ON FOUNDATIONS
The Council on Foundations exists to help philanthropy be a trusted partner in advancing the greater good. Building on our 70-year history, we are charting a course where funders earn and maintain the public’s trust by advancing equity, operating with high integrity, collaborating on broadscale challenges and serving as ethical stewards. Learn more about the Council and becoming a member by visiting, http://cof.org.
ABOUT POINTS OF LIGHT
Points of Light is a global nonprofit organization that inspires, equips and mobilizes millions of people to take action that changes the world. We envision a world in which every individual discovers the power to make a difference, creating healthy communities in vibrant, participatory societies. Through affiliates in 200 cities across 37 countries, and in partnership with thousands of nonprofits and corporations, Points of Light engages 5 million volunteers in 14 million hours of service each year. We bring the power of people to bear where it’s needed most. For more information, go to www.pointsoflight.org.