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04 Sep. 2020 | Comments (0)

As part of The Conference Board’s series on Building a More Civil & Just Society, I had the honor of interviewing Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, about a company's role in society today. He offered important perspectives for companies to consider in response to today's challenges. Here are just a few of his comments, in his own words.

On the Business Roundtable Statement one-year later: “They explicitly adopted a stakeholder approach, a different paradigm and that was significant . . . The challenge is that there have not been the concrete measures that demonstrate the commitment to implementing a stakeholder paradigm. We’ve yet to see that strategy come forward.”

On the challenges of shareholder activism: “Before Covid, I felt corporations could help contribute to solving society’s challenges and that companies can provide opportunities for solutions while doing good. . . . My experience, however, is that it is hard when you are a public company director to witness some of the things that we see in the name of shareholder activism.”

On the death of George Floyd: “The pandemic has had a tremendous impact on companies. . . What has fundamentally changed companies and their behavior, and the management outlook, is the murder of George Floyd and the racial reckoning that we are seeing in American society today.”

On moving beyond “courageous conversations” about race to make systemic and sustainable changes: “The hard work is to address the centers of power, decision-making, and authority in companies . . . We need to move from tokenism to transformation in corporate America.”

On the importance of hope: “Hope and optimism are at the center of the American narrative. Where there is more inequality, there is less hope. When there is more equality, there is more hope. . . I believe hope is the oxygen of a democracy. In a capitalist, democratic society, the role of a company is so critical to that narrative . . . Corporations have a critical role to play in providing the opportunity for people to work, to have a livelihood, to have status . . . The alchemy that comes from that makes it possible for America to be America.”

Watch the interview >> here

This interview is part of our CEO Forum series, Building a More Civil & Just Society. In these conversations, business executives across U.S. industries provide actionable insights to address underlying challenges of economic opportunity, education, workplace equality, and more.

Watch other CEO Forum interviews » here.

  • About the Author:Paul Washington

    Paul Washington

    Paul Washington is a recognized leader with a distinguished career in the ESG space. Before joining The Conference Board ESG Center, he served as Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel, an…

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