New York | deeds not words: the bosses americans are asked to go beyond condemnations of police violence after the death of George Floyd, an African-American 46-year-old a week ago.
“Companies have the opportunity to occupy the vacuum left by the government,” urges Richard Edelman, the boss of the powerful public relations agency of the same name. “It should not be that of the com’. There must be acts”.
Calls for action multiply to reduce economic inequality, a source of popular anger expressed in the protests, sometimes violent, that are scattered throughout the country in the last few days.
They rely on the lack of diversity at the highest levels of the companies in spite of the promises a thousand times repeated.
According to a report of 2019 of the Boston Consulting Group, only three African-Americans and twenty-four women are at the helm of the 500 largest us companies by revenue.
Big bosses, like Tim Cook (Apple), David Solomon (Goldman Sachs), or Larry Fink (BlackRock), denounced the racism this weekend.
Ken Frazier, the CEO of the pharmaceutical company Merck, he sees “platitudes”.
Only African-American to lead one of the thirty companies of the Dow Jones index, he calls for practical initiatives aimed at the professional integration of minorities that occupy more often jobs, junior store keepers, cashiers, clerks at the household, garbage collectors, delivery men etc
“When there is civil unrest, people publish press releases; they publish platitudes (…) I think the business community should go beyond press releases”, has blasted Monday, on channel CNBC, Mr. Frazier.
Itself owes its social success to an initiative enabling disadvantaged young people to integrate the schools of the elite, in Philadelphia.
It proposes to multiply this kind of action and others to form the African-Americans and Hispanics and help them to enter the business world.
“Business leaders can be a force for unity (…) Our society is more divided than ever. The workplace is the last place in America, apart from the army and may be the sport where people can choose with whom to associate”, he argues, adding that: “unemployment leads to lack of hope and lack of hope leads to what we see in the streets of our country now”.
According to the think tank progressive Economic Policy Institute, the average income of white households was in 2018 70 642 dollars against 41 692 for households that are black. In February, prior to the pandemic, the unemployment rate was 5.8% for black people and 3.1%, only in White.
For Mellody Hobson, co-executive director of the investment firm Ariel Investments, “when we look at the hierarchy of companies in America, from top to bottom, we see that black Americans and hispanics are not included, as if we didn’t exist in this country.”
“This is unacceptable,” says this business woman, african-american.
She urged companies to put into practice their commitments to good governance and recommends that shareholders use their vote to punish the companies recalcitrant.
Experts also promote the adoption of a policy of quotas as the “Rooney Rule”. It is a mechanism put in place by the professional league of american football (NFL), requiring teams to interview a candidate from a visible minority every time a coaching position is released in order to give them access to leadership positions.
“If the business americans are truly serious about the racism, it is necessary to have rules like this in place”, insists Hank Boyd, a professor of marketing at the university of Maryland.
Another track would be to hire visible minorities in positions of responsibility, to invest in startups created by African-Americans and Hispanics, and that executives of big companies are joining in parallel of the boards of directors of NGOS working in disadvantaged neighbourhoods, advocates Richard Edelman.
For him, it is in the best interest of companies because two-thirds of consumers, and in this case the “millennials” (ages 17-35 years), of which a large number currently, will buy according to their values.
“They practice the democracy of marks. Every time they go into a store, they want to know if their brands are,” says Mr. Edelman.
“There was a time when the companies said they did not want to take sides, that they were the Swiss (neutral). This is no longer possible,” says Hank Boyd. “This is a new era”.