Do Black Lives Still Matter to Corporations?
At the height of the Black Lives Matter protests, corporations around the world signed a letter, pledging to discuss white privilege, racism, and the role they play in maintaining a corrupt system. But have they kept their word?
There are a number of actions that have been taken, some of which the Black community welcomes, while others leave us wanting more.
COLLECTING ETHNICITY DATA IS VITAL
Many race equality experts don’t want to comment on the actions of these companies without fully assessing their commitments. Above all else, they want to see that companies were collecting ethnic identity data. Tesco, BT, and Direct Line all have begun collecting ethnicity data. This data was introduced to help businesses better understand their workforce and enable them to carry out ethnicity pay gap reviews.
Despite not specifically discussing their ethnic identity data collection, it’s clear from their other pledges and targets that companies have access to some of this information. KPMG and Sainsbury's both released the findings of an ethnicity pay gap review, while Sky, M&S, and John Lewis mentioned representation figures in their companies.
ANTI-RACISM TRAINING IN THE WORKPLACE
Most companies said they were planning to add anti-racism training and learning to their business model. These trainings are meant to discuss race, and they often include mandatory diversity and inclusion training.
But many people like Runnymede Trust’s Policy Officer, Kapoor, feel that “training won’t undo the profound structural issues within workplaces and across institutions and society that impact black and ethnic minority workers”.
Kapoor believes that ethnicity data is more important than anti-racism training, but also thinks that companies need to ensure that there are safe and effective methods for handling racial discrimination complaints.
Jeremy Crook, CEO of The Black Training and Enterprise Group (BTEG) argues that these types of training are crucial because if in the right environment and with the right training, people will be challenged constructively and supported to rethink the language they use.
Race Equality Matters (REM), which was set up in the summer of last year, provides solutions in the workplace. At a REM event in February, attended by business leaders, diversity specialists, and race equality organisations, 21% of respondents indicated that their organisation’s approach did not deal with racism at all. Many voiced that most companies were all talk, no action. REM’s work, however, is action-driven, with its key message being “action before words”.
They've started a program called The Big Promise, which streamlines the commitments firms made across many charters into a "magnificent seven promises." The list of promises varies according to the workforce's demographics. Those at the very top of the organization, for example, make a vow to disclose their ethnicity pay gap.
So while some corporations have begun to make good on their ‘commitments’, there is so much more change that needs to happen.