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25 Aug. 2016 | Comments (0)

Given the extreme distress facing our communities due to racial injustice, and calls for “truth and reconciliation” to address our nation’s history of slavery and its legacy, companies and their foundations face this question: Are these matters for corporate philanthropy?

Companies recognize that to maximize their potential in the marketplace, they must embrace diversity in the workforce, including in the C-suite and the boardroom. Businesses also understand that they will only thrive when their employees and customers live in safe, prosperous, and vibrant communities. Addressing these issues will advance corporate interests, contribute in the amelioration of past and present discrimination against groups of people, and help to build a better world.

To succeed in building a diverse and inclusive workforce and prosperous communities, corporations and their employees must develop a deeper understanding of the experience and challenges facing people of color who live in America. There are a number of ways that corporate foundations can be productive in helping to build this awareness and promote progress.

  • Partner with community foundations to support education and discussions about race in America and challenges facing our communities. Wells Fargo, for example, co-sponsors discussions of Black Lives Matter with the U.S. Black Chambers.
  • Sponsor the works of filmmakers, artists, performers, and musicians who are deepening our understanding of race in America, and create opportunities for employees and their families to engage with the artists. Founding members of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. include, for example, Dow Chemical Company, Google, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, and Medtronic Foundation. (As a side note, The Conference Board and Americans for the Arts are currently conducting the National Survey of Business Contributions to the Arts. If your company supports the arts through philanthropy or sponsorship, please participate by clicking here.)
  • Encourage and support employee volunteering in our communities, including nonprofit board service. Volunteers, working together with people of different backgrounds towards a common mission, develop understanding of the experience of others, a broader perspective, and a deep sense of our common humanity. Moreover, as Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative and winner of a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Prize, says: “We must get proximate and close to the things we are passionate about changing.”

It is in the best interests of companies to invest in greater awareness of the ways we think about race in America and to help in finding real solutions to contemporary problems. It is good for business, a just resolution for those facing unfair discrimination, and good for the world. 

  • About the Author:Alice Korngold

    Alice Korngold

    Alice Korngold advises companies and NGOs on strategy, board governance, sustainability, ESG, and diversity and inclusion. She is the author of  A Better World, Inc.: How Companies Profit by Solv…

    Full Bio | More from Alice Korngold


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