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Climate change, racial injustice, workplace inequality, lack of equal economic opportunity, unequal access to capital, and a general sense of divisiveness are among the growing threats to the success of capitalism, which in turn threatens the prosperity of both business and society. The expectation from stakeholders—customers, employees, shareholders, and society—is for business leaders to take action to address these challenges. To that end, a new two-part report from The Conference Board offers insights for business leaders for confronting inequity and injustice in society and in their businesses.
In March of 2021, The Conference Board convened corporate executives across the business landscape in a virtual conference, Building a More Civil & Just Society: Organizational Impact on Social Change Issues, to explore the steps they were taking to drive lasting change in their own firms, communities, and society.
The resulting reportdraws onthoseshared lessons and perspectives. It argues that leaders have both a moral obligation and a business imperative to address these threats. It is not about politics, partisan preferences, or altruism; it is about sustainable business growth, workforce engagement and productivity, customer loyalty, competitive advantage, and most importantly, providing prosperity for all Americans. This starts with the creation of equal opportunities in education, upward mobility, wealth creation, and advancement in the workplace.
Insights on Organizational Impact and Social Change Issues include:
- Taking a stand does entail risk but joining and changing the conversation on inequality is becoming an essential part of the relationship with customers and employees. Silence on social issues or simply not responding is a vanishing option.
- Look inside first, then look outward. Start addressing racism and racial and gender underrepresentation by identifying the issues within your own corporate walls through dialogue with employees and leveraging analytics to assess the current state within.
- Choose progress over perfection and action over observation.
- Becoming a more socially responsible company requires an intentional strategy that includes setting objectives and metrics and ensuring accountability to meet goals.
- Change starts with the leaders themselves and their ability to communicate purpose with passion and authenticity, which can then drive meaningful behavioral changes.
- Embrace new partnerships and ways to collaborate. External collaborations strengthen the company brand and connection to the community while also building a future talent pipeline.
Insights on Innovative People Approaches to Social Change include:
- Investment in high-quality early education can yield a range of long-term economic and social benefits such as higher wages, less crime, and higher graduation rates.
- You need to go beyond diversity of numbers and build a culture of inclusiveness that allows diverse talent to thrive, contribute, and move up in the organization.
- Your talent pipeline is a good place to look for signs of inequality and unequitable employment and promotion outcomes. Talent takes time to develop, and that means paying attention now to your pipeline with an eye towards nurturing diverse talent and creating advancement opportunities.
- Organizations committed to the concept of pay equity integrate it into their basic mission, values, and recruitment and retention strategies to drive progress.
- Focusing on alternative credentialing not only widens the pool of qualified candidates for in-demand skills but sends a signal to diverse populations that there are additional and nontraditional pathways to success.
- A more holistic view of employee wellness extends beyond traditional health issues and requires an innovative approach to an array of issues such as pay equity, job opportunity, inclusiveness, employee burnout, and benefits.
About The Conference Board
The Conference Board is the member-driven think tank that delivers trusted insights for what’s ahead. Founded in 1916, we are a non-partisan, not-for-profit entity holding 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt status in the United States. www.conference-board.org
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