Will Corporate America Reaffirm Commitment to DEI Efforts?

By: Keli Wilson

On December 15, 2023, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) sent a letter to Fortune 500 companies asking them to reaffirm their commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs. The letter also asks these recipients to provide updates on the DEI pledges they made following the killing of George Floyd 

Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer sparked a movement of protests and activism for social and racial justice. Many companies publicly acknowledged the killing and pledged funds and resources to create more equitable opportunities within their own workforce and the industries of which they are a part. However, there has been a drop-in public support since that time due to various factors such as activist shareholders, public protest, and the Supreme Court’s decision in the University of North Carolina and Harvard University cases. 

Expanding Expectations 

CBC is not only looking for sustainability in racial equity commitments but is asking Corporate America to expand efforts to close the racial wealth gap. As part of this, CBC stated its intention to create an equity scorecard to “assess progress." The letter also indicates the CBC’s intention to “engage in hearings led by Congressional Black Caucus members for additional oversight.” 

How Employers Should Respond 

Without knowing what is being put into an “equity scorecard," companies are left to wonder what should be provided to CBC. A letter received by one Fortune 500 company includes a statement that any company that fails to respond to CBC will be placed on the public equity scorecard as demonstrating a “lack of support."

Below are some considerations for companies determining whether to respond and what to include in their response: 

  1. Provide a thoughtful response, even if it is to address the request and ask for additional time to appropriately draft an approved communication. 
  2. Treat this request like other public facing initiatives, such as Environmental, Social, and Governance reports, 10K filings, or other human capital disclosures to mitigate misrepresentation of information. 
  3. Ensure board and executive awareness of the benefits to the employee, employer, and society with reaffirmation, and any unintended consequences. 
  4. Conduct a thorough review of the effectiveness of previous pledges and revise new commitments to be as impactful as possible.
  5. Consider seeking opportunities to engage one-on-one with representatives of CBC to fully understand the request.
DCI will continue to monitor actions taken by CBC and report on updates here on the DCI Blog. 

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