5 June, 2020
What can I say? What can I do?
In the face of the events unfurling across America since George Floyd was murdered by a police officer these questions have taken on an urgency and importance for everyone.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, corporate America has been quick to add its voice to the protests – staying silent is no longer an acceptable option. But the strength and intensity of their pronouncements is notable. In most cases, the statements are not neutral and balanced, as they have often been before. They are unequivocal and passionate, and many include an acceptance of the failures of their own past behaviour. The words of John Foley, Peleton CEO are a case in point: ‘We have stood too quietly in the face of clear injustice. We must ensure this is an anti-racist organization.’
Of course the second of these questions is the most important. Words are easy, action is difficult, and never more so than when it involves addressing the impact of a history of systemic racism and oppression.
But the length of the road ahead is acknowledged by many of the companies speaking out. And, importantly, civic organisations are set to hold them to account. This Washington Post article sets out how consumers are calling on the companies making statements to be transparent in their ethnicity pay gap, BAME board representation, D&I internal and recruitment policies. One organisation has created a spreadsheet to track corporate commitments in the last few days against their percentage of black employees, D&I statements and pledges to anti-racism organisations.
So we think there is reason to have a modicum of hope that this time things will be different. A combination of a new wave of will and public scrutiny of whether or not action is being taken may spur companies to find a path to change.
By Jennie Mitchell