Last month, Robert F. Smith participated in the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit, an event that brought together CEOs, business leaders and journalists to discuss issues impacting businesses and the global marketplace. This year, the impact of COVID-19 on business and global economics understandably took center stage. Equity was also a top focus area in many conversations, in particular, the economic repercussions of COVID-19 on Black- and Latino-owned businesses.
Smith’s conversation with Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, and Wall Street Journal reporter Nikki Waller focused on race relations, and its impacts on business and society. Specifically, they discussed racial and social justice, systemic racism and police violence. The questions posed by the conversation were complex ones, specifically what role businesses could play in addressing the systemic inequalities facing America today.
Over the summer, when George Floyd’s killing made national headlines, Smith penned a letter to his staff about police violence. He described the news as “heartbreaking and painful.” He also wrote that he believes that each of us —including those working in the private sector — have the ability and the obligation to help deliver change that can help fully realize the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other changemakers.
Delivering change is in part why Smith has called for all large corporations to pledge to donate 2% of their profit to help eliminate the racial wealth gap. Several large corporations have already made good on this pledge, including Netflix. Other companies have made serious investments in promoting equity, like Starbucks and JPMorgan. These actions may seem small, but Smith believes that they are critical to changing our country and our culture.
Learn more about Smith’s 2% pledge.