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—CEO of OneTen—
—Chairman and Managing Director of General Catalyst—
—CEO of Newell Brands—
Leading CEOs and business executives from across American industry spoke yesterday about how their organizations are tackling racial inequality, offering actionable insights for other business leaders on how to drive change in their own communities.
Hosted by The Conference Board, each day of the Building a More Civil & Just Society Conference showcased how businesses are taking on one of America’s three major social inequities: economics (day one), health (day two), and race (day three). Highlights from yesterday’s conversations on racial disparities include:
Keynote: OneTen’s Upskilling, Hiring, and Promoting One Million Black Americans into Family-Sustaining Careers
OneTen is a coalition bringing together business leaders committed to upskilling, hiring, and promoting one million Black Americans over the next 10 years into family-sustaining jobs with opportunities for advancement. OneTen’s just-named CEO, Maurice Jones, and Co-founder of OneTen, Ken Chenault (Chairman and Managing Director, General Catalyst), spoke about how the organization is connecting employers with talent partners, leading non-profits, and other skill-credentialing organizations to create more equitable and inclusive workforces.
- “I’m a strong believer in free enterprise and capitalism. But I think we all need to recognize that corporations exist because society allows us to exist. And there is a responsibility, I think, for all of us to build enduring companies. It doesn’t mean we won’t buy and sell companies, but the attitude has to be: I want to start a business that’s going to endure. And to do that, we need a well-functioning society. And so, I think that businesses have a fundamental responsibility to do things that will improve society while also generating a profit.” — Ken Chenault, Chairman and Managing Director, General Catalyst; Former Chairman and CEO, American Express; Co-founder, OneTen (@6:46)
- “This is more than being just about hiring and promoting. It’s about changing practices that the companies engage in to make sure that those practices are more equitable, to make sure that those practices actually create the kind of environment that will enable Black talent without four-year degrees to thrive.” — Maurice Jones, Chief Executive Officer, OneTen (@12:23)
- “Companies depend on talent—the most important asset. And that talent is what is present throughout the country. There’s talent everywhere. Great talent. The real issue is what companies do, what individuals do, to ensure that talent has the opportunity to be the best that it can be.” — Maurice Jones, Chief Executive Officer, OneTen (@17:54)
- “We’re also now saying to this generation of founders and innovators: think about the impact of your products and services on economic opportunity and inclusion. Think about it as you’re developing your products and services. Think about the environment and sustainability. Focus on diversity—integrate that in. Focus on privacy and safety.” — Ken Chenault, Chairman and Managing Director, General Catalyst; Former Chairman and CEO, American Express; Co-founder, OneTen (@6:46)
Interview: JUST Capital: Driving Toward an Economy That Works for All Americans
JUST Capital believes that business can and must be a greater force for good, and helps markets be part of the solution by equipping them with the data, tools, and insights to deliver on that promise. In this conversation with JUST Capital founding CEO Martin Whittaker, he discussed how its initiatives are shifting mindsets toward stakeholder capitalism, and what corporations can do to better align with the priorities of the American public and build a more just and inclusive economy.
- “When you ask Americans, do you think the economy is working properly or working well, the vast majority on the left and the right, old and young, wealthy and poor, all say the same thing—which is no. In fact, one of the things that people want, I think, is we see a desire to build a more just economy. And you know, many Americans, a majority of Americans, feel the large corporations have an important role in that.” — Martin Whittaker, Chief Executive Officer, JUST Capital (@3:29)
- “How you take care of and create value for workers, how you support communities, how you manage environmental stresses and impacts, how you serve the communities where you operate, and of course how you make money and look after your shareholders—the totality of that is a much better reflection of modern-day business thinking.” — Martin Whittaker, Chief Executive Officer, JUST Capital (@10:01)
- “You've got every aspect of civil society—business, finance, policy, consumer, and society—coming together recognizing that we’ve got to create a new North Star here. What was in the past is not working. We need something better. I don't think that's happened before.” — Martin Whittaker, Chief Executive Officer, JUST Capital (@13:48)
Interview: Business as a Platform for Change
In this conversation, Ravi Saligram, President and CEO of Newell Brands, discussed the important actions taken to lead on the moral imperative of removing systemic barriers. Removing these hurdles would create a level playing field of opportunity that ensures the American dream for all.
- “We laid out a sort of roadmap saying, how do we improve the work environment? How do we create pay equity and make sure that we have the right kind of systems where there isn't inherent bias? How do we create a workplace where people can actually feel they can bring their whole selves to work? How do we make sure in senior management and in the board that we have the right sense?” — Ravi Saligram, President and CEO, Newell Brands (@7:47)
- “The ultimate thing you're trying to get in a company, especially a consumer products company, is you want to drive innovation. But to drive innovation, you have to have diversity of thinking. You can't have people who look like you, talk like you, feel like you—then you're just going to repeat the same stuff. So I think if you believe that diversity drives innovation, innovation drives good business results. So, you've got to believe that, because then it becomes a business imperative. And then you drive it systematically.” — Ravi Saligram, President and CEO, Newell Brands (@10:06)
- “The diversity and inclusion and belonging needs to be taken in the context of everything else we’re doing in the company, which is a ‘whole people-first culture.’ We're trying to inculcate that people are what matter the most in this company. They are our best capital. More than financial capital, it's our people capital. And they see that action speaks louder than words.” — Ravi Saligram, President and CEO, Newell Brands (@15:25)
Interview: Business Accountability in the Fight for Racial and Gender Equality
This conversation explored leading the charge for true commitment, measurement, and accountability around the work that financial firms are doing to advance racial and gender equity globally.
- “The role that the private sector is expected to play, those expectations are rapidly changing. And so, as we evolve that role, we want to be as effective as possible. And I think it's most effective when the concept of being a good corporate citizen isn't off to the side in its own standalone vertical but integrated throughout the company.” — Brandee McHale, Head of Community Investing and Development, Citi, and President, Citi Foundation (@2:18)
- “Perhaps the first step is sometimes the hardest, which is listening. And listening to your stakeholders. You know, I talked about sometimes you have to have uncomfortable conversations, but uncomfortable listening is probably even harder. So, I would say a really important step is to not assume, but to go out, talk to stakeholders. And that includes your employees, that's your clients, and your investors—an incredibly important stakeholder. I think listen to them, listen to their ideas. You don’t internally have to have all the answers, but I think if you really want to get started, make sure you put people on this task who see their role as listeners and as change agents, and are going to be able to work across the company to bring the best ideas forward and to drive innovation.” — Brandee McHale, Head of Community Investing and Development, Citi, and President, Citi Foundation (@16:30)
- “The world is changing. Look at the threats that are on the horizon to our business models: climate change, racial injustice, a general sense of divisiveness. People want to do business with companies that they see are adding to solutions. People want to work for companies that are part of the solution. And what that's going to mean is that we've got to balance both the short-term need for financial returns with looking at what are the long-term gains. I think the companies that we look back on and say were the great companies of our time, were the ones that really integrated a focus on this throughout the entire franchise.” — Brandee McHale, Head of Community Investing and Development, Citi, and President, Citi Foundation (@17:38)
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