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Business Roundtable CEOs Announce Corporate Initiatives on Racial Justice

Oct. 15, 2020
The initiatives include a fund for community lending institutions and calls for companies to disclose key diversity metrics.

Business Roundtable announced new corporate initiatives and policy recommendations aimed at addressing racial equity in employment, finance, health, housing and criminal justice.

The latest slate of recommendations, which Roundtable Chairman and Walmart CEO Doug McMillan says were developed with the help of more than 100 subject matter experts, include initiatives to expand collaborations with historically Black colleges and universities, support businesses owned by Black entrepreneurs, promote free and low cost bank functions to “underbanked” populations, and pressing Congress to give more federal funds to early literacy programs.

“For Business Roundtable CEOs, this agenda is an important step in addressing barriers to equity and justice,” said Joshua Bolten, president of Business Roundtable. In a statement, Bolten noted that the organization pressed Congress on police reform in July shortly after the Roundtable formed its special committee on racial equity in June.

“Now, with announcement of this broader agenda, CEOs are supporting policies and undertaking initiatives to address several other systems that contribute to large and growing disparities,” said Bolten.

The announcement corporate initiatives, including several specific goals. The Roundtable has set goals for its member companies to cumulatively provide $1 billion in support for community lending institutions by 2025 and $30 billion to build 200,000 affordable rental units by 2025.

Member CEOs also say they are reiterating their support for raising the federal minimum wage and issuing a general call for companies to voluntarily disclose key diversity metrics and to conduct regular pay equity reviews.

Manufacturing leaders offer perspectives

Several prominent manufacturing CEOs offered their own statements on the policy recommendations.

Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors Co., emphasized action on educational funding: “It is clear that equity in education and quality childcare are two critical components to ensuring a successful future for students of color,” she said.

“We all have the opportunity to change the status quo,” said Alex Gorsky, CEO of Johnson & Johnson. He went on to say it is the “responsibility” of business leaders to prioritize diversity and inclusion.

Eaton CEO Craig Arnold said, “Recent tragic killings of unarmed Black men and women have put a spotlight on policing in communities of color.”

Arnold, who is also Chair of Business Roundtable’s Racial Equity and Justice Committee, Subcommittee on Equitable Justice, noted that disproportionate treatment of Black Americans at the hands of police can lead to lost income and opportunities and said companies should work to facilitate the reintegration of formerly incarcerated individuals into society.  

Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, said that Microsoft supports the recommendations. “We believe technology has a role to play in this effort and are making commitments to drive change within Microsoft, across our ecosystem and our communities.” Nadella said Microsoft would focus on transforming its culture, expanding access to affordable broadband, and ensuring community financial institutions.

Fellow tech CEO Bob Swan of Intel said, “Standing on the sidelines of racial and social justice is not an option. We remain committed to full inclusion and will continue to transparently share data to hold ourselves accountable and drive real change.”

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