Corporate Social Responsibility: The Elephant In The Room Finally Speaks Up.
How corporations are finally stepping up to help bridge the racial divide in America
In a previous article, I wrote about Corporate Social Responsibility, I pointed out the power held by corporations to make a difference in the struggle for racial equality and healing the wounds of the nation through the concept of corporate activism.
This article is a follow up to that article to provide validation that when corporations decide to speak the nation and the world listens.
Corporate social responsibility is no longer just a talking point and the proverbial “elephant in the room.” It has awakened from a slumber like a hibernating bear and making its roar of reason heard around the globe.
The corporate message that is beginning to emerge is “enough is enough.” “We will no longer sit idle. We are now marching for justice and equality and to right America’s ship for smoother sailing.”
This article is an attempt to show how that journey has started and hopefully will continue.
Corporate Social Responsibility Has Begun and the Rippling Effect Is Affecting Every Aspect of American and Global Society for the Better in the Following Ways
- FedEx, PepsiCo, Nike, and Bank of America put such pressure on the Washington Redskin’s football team that it has decided to drop the offensive and racist name “Redskins” as the official name of the team. This ends 87 years of insults and degradation and humiliation for the indigenous Native Americas who suffered the loss of their country, their heritage, their culture, their dignity, and had to be reminded of it every time the name “Redskins” was used in promoting a company that has made billions of dollars from a slur that will last a lifetime for so many people.
- NASCAR has stepped up and removed the long-overdue symbol and stigma of slavery and bondage that divides Black and White citizens by banning the presence of the Confederate flag from its events. A long-standing tradition of flying the flag of the confederacy and conjuring up ghosts of the past has finally been put in the grave where it belongs.
- The National Football League (NFL), finally sees the light and apologizes for the treatment it allowed Black American athletes to suffer for the simple act of exercising their constitutional right to peaceful protest against racial injustice by kneeling on one knee during the singing of the National Anthem. Corporate social responsibility sparked this change. It sends a message that peaceful protest is an American tradition and part of the fabric of our constitutional rights no matter who it pisses off or who disapproves.
- The hiring practices of NFL teams have been radically changed to ensure and require that during the vetting process to hire team head coaches, general managers, and other executive positions, minorities, women, and particularly Black candidates will be interviewed and seriously considered for hire. The pressure of Corporate America helped provide the fuel to make this change.
The corporate entertainment world has been rocked by racial and social unrest as well. It has responded to the call for change by canceling television shows that portray seemingly benign characters but the undertow sends a message of racism and shines a negative light on Black people.
Black cartoon character voices that have previously been provided by White actors and professional voice-over artists are now being removed and replaced with Black voices. It seems this should have been common sense in the first place, but common sense has never been common no matter the race or culture.
Supplier diversity, the concept of utilizing minority, women, and other disadvantaged business owners to supply goods and services to large corporations has been stepped up.
PepsiCo announced that it is providing 400 million dollars to support and use minority suppliers, doubling its prior supply chain purchases from minorities and women.
Black businesses and the communities they serve will have access to 530 million dollars of capital assistance and other resources through a new initiative created by PayPal.
A four-year 1 billion-dollar commitment to strengthen economic opportunities in communities of color has been established by Bank of America.
For decades, Black consumers have been reminded of a heritage of race, servitude, and lower status every time they shopped at retail grocery stores and viewed the isles showing black-faced Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben on boxes of pancakes and rice.
These images sent a subtle and subliminal message to black consumers that they were servants and their place was to care, cook, and serve White folk.
After years of protests and boycotts of purchases of these products, racially offensive imagery is being removed. The makers of Cream of Wheat and Mrs. Butterworth have agreed to do the same.
Walmart, Walgreen, and CVS have come to their senses and will stop placing African-American beauty products in anti-theft cases, alongside other products not given the same protections.
The mere idea of having to go into a store and see products designed specifically for your culture locked within a glass container and you have to ask for permission to get access and purchase them is highly offensive. It also sends a message that the perception of store ownership is that Black people are prone to steal on impulse and cannot be trusted like non-Black consumers.
Hopefully, this corporate responsible act will take root and grow throughout the retail consumer industry.
The Corporate Social Responsibility Journey Has Started but There Is Still a Long Way to Go.
It is wonderful news to hear and see how Corporate America has responded to society’s unrest with the pandemic of racism. Finally, many of them are putting action behind their rhetoric. However, this is not nearly enough.
History has shown that racial unrest and protests for equality of treatment bring about a very short period of attention and then wanes away after a few band-aids are placed over the wounds. It must not happen this time. There must be a permanent change.
Wounds will fester for a long time before they are healed. They are deep and penetrate to the bare bone of America’s racial fabric. Some of the issues that must be addressed in addition to those issues that have gained some attention are:
Severe lack of capital
The availability of funding for Black women, other minorities, and disenfranchised business owners is dismal. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Develop Agency, minority business owners are less likely to receive loans than non-minority business owners. Even, if they do obtain a loan, they are more likely to receive less of a loan amount than a non-minority business borrower.
Black women are America’s fastest-growing small business segment, yet they cannot obtain access to capital to sustain their growth and build their business and help their surrounding communities. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it even worse. Most minority businesses haven’t received the help the program promised.
Redlining is the practice of outlining areas with sizable Black populations in red ink on maps as a warning to mortgage lenders, effectively isolating Black people and communities in specific areas. Because of this practice Black people and the communities they live in suffer lower levels of investment than their white counterparts.
This effectively kills off large areas over some time and causes flight from those areas. Once the flight starts the areas become dilapidated and property values are lowered significantly. Then comes the money from outside the area, usually from White interests, and they purchase all the lower-valued properties. They then start a revitalization process known as “gentrification” which is a process of redeveloping an area with upgrades and implementing remodeled and new homes and businesses that create a higher quality of living, goods, and services.
Of course, this process always works for White people to the detriment of Black people.
Although illegal for 50 years, redlining still exists. How about an initiative by corporations to start to review and hold accountable banks for the lack of support and funding to Black people in such circumstances.
What if banks were given the incentive to treat Black people right by simply withholding the depositing of huge corporation funds into bank accounts when it’s determined redlining and other discriminatory practices are taking place? This would help put a stop to redlining in a huge and impactful way. This would be a substantial demonstration of corporate social responsibility.
Diversity and Inclusion
Corporate boardrooms need to change their complexion, gender, and makeup to reflect the realities of society. More ethnic minorities and women should be on their boards and in commanding executive roles such as Board Chairperson, CEO, President, and other top executive positions.
The days of sitting in an ivory tower and ruling from on high by white males only are over. Society is demanding better.
According to a Harvard Law School Report, there has been some improvement in recent years but not nearly enough. Indeed, in a recent Newsweek report, despite the lip service being given by corporations that Black people matter, not a single Black person sits on the 20 largest Fortune 500 corporations in American.
To change the “White male landscape” of corporate boardrooms governments are stepping in. California, in particular, in enacting its California Senate Bill 826 requires at least one female to be on the board of directors if the corporation’s executive office is located within the state. If the board consists of 5 board members 2 of them must be female. If the board consists of 6 board members 3 of them must be female.
The Bill went into effect in 2018 and interestingly, as of 2020, 43 corporations don’t meet the requirements of the law. They face stiff fines and penalties as a result.
California is also the first state that recognizes the disparity and inequities of physical appearances within the corporation workplace and how Black employees have been discriminated against based on their appearance regarding their natural hairstyles.
Unfortunately, for years workplace employee appearances have been measured by “white models” regarding how an employee should look and present themselves at work and to the corporation’s prospect and customer base.
The hair texture of Black people is different than White people. That’s just a fact. It doesn’t make them any less able to deliver quality service or a product on behalf of a corporation. In fact, those corporations that embrace and effectuate diversity, equity, and inclusion have experienced a better ability to be competitive and have realized an increase in profits.
Corporations must make sure part of their responsibility is to remove non-job related criteria from within their environments. They should do this through initiatives of diversity and inclusion
The Organized Corporate Church Must Come Out of Hiding and Speak the Truth That It Professes to Proclaim.
Churches are corporations. They are creations of the state in which they exist just like any secular corporation. The argument that church and state are separate is specious when it comes to corporate social responsibility.
Indeed, Christian churches, based on their tenets, have more responsibility to root out racism and injustice than secular corporations.
Amid all the chaos and carnage being created in the quest for justice, fairness, and equality, the church has largely been absent in the dialogue and activity to help quell the unrest. Yet, it is one of the linchpins of society that can influence global change.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. famously lamented 11:00 a.m. on Sunday morning “as the most segregated hour in Christian America.”
Unfortunately, that statement still rings with the truth when church congregations across America gather. Black churches and White churches have a gulf between them just like there is a secular divide between the two races.
Great strides have and are being made by magnificent church leaders to bridge the racial gap.
However, the church as a corporate presence has failed to meet the standards set by God Himself to recognize that we all are joined together as one blood as recorded in the Book of Acts.
“And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth…” Acts 17:26 KJV.
There should not be any division among us because of race, creed, or national origin. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28 NIV
These proclamations and standards should be part of the organized church’s corporate social responsibility. Working with the secular corporate section such a partnership will quench the fire of hatred and division like an abundance of water abolishes a forest aflame.
This is the clarion call to the church that this writer hopes will be heeded and implemented in massive movements in the future.
What You and I Can Do to Keep Corporate Social Responsibility Engaged and Sustained.
You and I can make a difference in the use and power of corporate social responsibility. We constitute customers of companies that sell us the goods and services we consume.
Collectively, we control whether corporations make a profit or suffer a loss. Those corporations that support the communities they operate within, that treat their employees with respect and dignity and provide an opportunity for advancement should be rewarded with our patronage and purchases. Those that don’t should not.
Corporations recognize and heed the message sent by the purchasing power of society. Although they are extremely powerful, together we can shape how that power is utilized.
Let’s join hands and make a permanent change for the better. America is counting on us.