Business Roundtable CEOs Announce Corporate Actions, Public Policy Recommendations to Advance Racial Equity and Justice, Increase Economic Opportunity in America

Recommendations Detail How Business, Government Can Address Inequity and Injustice Across Six Systems

October 15, 2020

Washington, DC – Business Roundtable today announced corporate initiatives and public policy recommendations to advance racial equity and justice. Specifically, Business Roundtable CEOs are addressing six systems: employment, finance, education, health, housing and criminal justice. These recommendations are aimed principally at reducing the economic opportunity gap in communities of color, including disparities in access to financial tools and high-quality jobs, education and health care.

“The racial inequities that exist for many Black Americans and people of color are real and deeply rooted,” said Business Roundtable Chairman Doug McMillon, Chairman & CEO of Walmart. “These longstanding systemic challenges have too often prevented access to the benefits of economic growth and mobility for too many, and a broad and diverse group of Americans is demanding change. It is our employees, customers and communities who are calling for change, and we are listening – and most importantly – we are taking action.”

On June 5, McMillon announced the creation of a Special Committee of the Business Roundtable Board of Directors to advance racial equity and justice solutions. Today’s announcement is the product of months of CEO engagement with more than 100 subject matter experts focused on business’ response to the systemic challenges facing Black Americans and communities of color.

“For Business Roundtable CEOs, this agenda is an important step in addressing barriers to equity and justice,” said Joshua Bolten, President & CEO of Business Roundtable. “This summer we took on the urgent need for policing reform. We called on Congress to adopt higher federal standards for policing, to track whether police departments and officers have histories of misconduct, and to adopt measures to hold abusive officers accountable. Now, with announcement of this broader agenda, CEOs are supporting policies and undertaking initiatives to address several other systems that contribute to large and growing disparities.”

Today’s announcement includes new policy endorsements and corporate initiatives to:

1. Ensure Black Americans have access to good jobs.

  • Business Roundtable companies are expanding their work with HBCUs, which produce a quarter of all Black college graduates, and they are partnering with a group that works to ease the burden of student debt.
  • Business Roundtable is also launching an initiative to ensure that member companies account for the value of skills, instead of degrees, in hiring and promotion.
  • Business Roundtable CEOs are reiterating their support for raising the federal minimum wage.
  • Finally, Business Roundtable CEOs are calling on companies to voluntarily disclose key diversity metrics in the workforce and leadership ranks and to conduct regular pay equity reviews.

2. Support Black-owned small businesses and entrepreneurs.

  • Business Roundtable companies are expanding their support for community lending institutions, which provide funds for Black households and small businesses. They have set a Roundtable-wide goal of $1b in support by 2025
  • Business Roundtable companies have set a Roundtable-wide goal of $600 million in support by 2025 in financial contributions to provide vetted Black-led and Latino-led Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) with capital and deposits.
  • Business Roundtable companies are also working to set up a system to provide mentorship and support to Black and Latino small business owners with a goal of reaching 50,000 businesses over the next 5 years.
  • Business Roundtable urges policymakers to reform Small Business Administration products and services to better meet minority borrowers’ needs.

3. Help Americans of color develop financial security.

  • Business Roundtable member companies are developing and adopting product innovations to support building credit responsibly and working to help more individuals move from credit invisible to credit scorable.
  • Business Roundtable financial institution member companies are reaching more un/under-banked Black and Latino households by offering and promoting low/no-cost bank products (checking, savings, and credit building) with features designed to meet the needs of Black and Latino Americans.
  • Business Roundtable members are setting a goal of $30 billion to build 200,000 affordable rental units by 2025, making housing more affordable and accessible to Black and Latino households.
  • Business Roundtable member companies also endorse workplace financial wellness programs.
  • Business Roundtable urges policymakers to enact legislation that will pilot portable benefits and a program to test the effectiveness of “baby bonds.”

4.   Press Congress to address one of the core drivers of racial disparities: improving early educational outcomes for many young Black and African-American students.

  • Business Roundtable urges Congress to provide more federal funding for early literacy programs and pre-K, give states funds to safely reopen schools and urgently pass legislation to help close the digital divide.

The full list of policy proposals and corporate initiatives can be found here.

Additional statements from Business Roundtable leadership:

Alex Gorsky, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Johnson & Johnson and Chair of the Business Roundtable Corporate Governance Committee:

"We all have the opportunity to change the status quo—and business leaders across all sectors of the economy understand that change begins at home. That means doing all we can to make our companies as diverse and inclusive as possible, while ensuring accountability with measurable results. It is our responsibility to create opportunities for people of all backgrounds, and by prioritizing diversity and inclusion we can better our companies and our country.”

Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO of General Motors, Chair of the Business Roundtable Racial Equity and Justice, Subcommittee on Education and Workforce and Chair of the organization’s standing policy committee on those issues: 

“It is clear that equity in education and quality childcare are two critical components to ensuring a successful future for students of color. And we know that a diverse and inclusive workplace is also crucial to business success. It creates a strong workforce and promotes fresh, innovative thinking. As business leaders, we are collectively opening new paths to jobs and career advancement by reviewing our hiring and promoting practices. We support policy actions that ease student debt burdens, increase access to high quality and affordable pre-K and K-12 education, and increase federal support for HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions.”

Jamie Dimon, Chairman & CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Chair of the Racial Equity and Justice, Subcommittee on Finance:

“The racial wealth divide is a result of centuries of policies and systems that have significantly curtailed opportunity and wealth creation for Black and Latinx people. We have a historic opportunity to rebuild our nation to be more equitable for all.”

Arne Sorenson, President & CEO of Marriott International, Chair of the Racial Equity and Justice Subcommittee on Health and Chair of the standing Roundtable Health & Retirement Committee:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequities in health and has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color. Higher incidences of underlying chronic health issues, including asthma, diabetes and hypertension, have compounded its effects on Black Americans and other communities of color. While the pandemic is unprecedented, sadly these health disparities are not new. There are a number of factors – environmental, social and economic – that determine health outcomes. As employers, we’re members of the communities where we operate, and we will work with government at all levels to help achieve better and more equitable health care and outcomes.”

Craig Arnold, Chairman & CEO of Eaton and Chair of the Racial Equity and Justice, Subcommittee on Equitable Justice:

“Recent tragic killings of unarmed Black men and women have put a spotlight on policing in communities of color. Disproportionately, Black Americans are stopped, searched, arrested and punished more often than their White peers, and incarceration can result in short- and long-term lost income and limited employment prospects. This can lead to a lifetime of lost opportunities, impacting generations. While business leaders are not arbiters of justice, we will do what is in our power to advocate for commonsense policing reforms and facilitate the full reintegration of justice-involved individuals into society by removing barriers to economic opportunity.”

McMillon authored an op-ed on this topic in USA Today which can be found here.