Arthur W. Page Society

Hot Topics: What is an Organization’s Role in the Global Response to Social Injustice

The recent outrage over social injustice, spurred by the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, has reverberated around the world. Employees are asking their companies not only if they have diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) efforts, but what steps are they taking to actively combat institutional racism and how can they move faster. On June 16, Page convened Page and Page Up members for a conversation about the global response to these issues, and how the expectations of stakeholders have changed. Here are some key takeaways:

  1. The Floyd murder has been the catalyst but racial inequality and injustice is a global problem.  We see this in the protests popping up in cities around the world, #BlackLivesMatter being a lens that allows each country to apply their own meaning. The discussion around systemic racism in the U.S. has sparked a renewed emphasis on local issues in other countries - and participants referenced anti-Papuan racism in Indonesia, the mistreatment of Aboriginal populations in Australia/, and indigenous populations in Canada. It’s important for global organizations to scale their DE&I efforts and update their policies both at a broad strategic level and individual country level.
  2. The question now is how to build an anti-racist organization. Corporate social investment in programs that are anti-racist can help create the structure for lasting change. Building partnerships that are close to the business itself will also ensure a higher level of success. Even supply chain logistics are an opportunity, identifying procurement alternatives from minority-owned businesses to help build an anti-racist organization.
  3. An end to corporate virtue signaling. Words ring hollow if they’re not backed up by action, and stakeholders are not content to let the conversation end without meaningful commitments to act. One member spoke about their organization's discomfort with these conversations. Their answer has been to have the Comms team keep challenging themselves; interviewing their customers to get their perspectives on these topics, deliberately choosing to use the CEO’s voice and staying in the conversation instead of going silent.
  4. How much do we use our public voice as an organization? Looking to company values can guide choices on when to enter the public conversation. However, providing venues to hear what is important to employees is also crucial. One member described having a webinar related to COVID-19 response and finding that the chat was instead full of questions related to social justice.
  5. Focus on what the company can control. Existing DE&I efforts are a good first step, but the question now is how to accelerate and scale, making sure the efforts are being applied to all employees. In the future, this will be a differentiator for companies when it comes to attracting and retaining talent - or even now, as companies are looking to hire agencies that are diverse and are leaders in this space. Global companies have an additional layer of complexity as some countries do not have the expectations or even penalize companies that express their voice - this is a balance many are still trying to strike. 

Special thanks to moderator Ian Herbison, CEO and co-founder of Speyside Group, and to Daniel Tisch, CEO, Argyle Public Relationships; Chris Talley, CCO & SVP Corporate Communications, USAA and Anna Lovely, VP Global Communications at Cargill for contributing to an active discussion on the call with their informed perspectives.

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