Robert F. Smith on the Role Companies Can Play in Addressing Racial Inequality

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Many private sector companies are embracing their role in creating more equitable workplaces, addressing racial inequality and even donating to causes working to end racism.

Robert F. Smith argues that if we want to see lasting, meaningful change, this should just be the beginning of the private sector’s efforts to address structural racism. Smith believes that we need the private sector to step up and deploy “permanent capital” — meaning investments and commitments that are scalable and focused on the long-term. 

Specifically, companies should designate 2% of their yearly earnings to closing racial opportunity gaps, diversifying their boards and pension managers, making higher education more affordable, and addressing disparities that they’re uniquely qualified to help solve. For example, telecommunications companies have a “special responsibility to end connectivity deserts” where one in three Black households have no broadband internet or computer access. Health care companies can work to address racial health inequities, and software companies can make affordable tools to help Black sole proprietors and small business owners better handle payroll and customer acquisition. 

“It is all too easy to let the urgency of a moment fade away with little to show for it,” Smith said. “Let’s meet this moment. We have the tools, the technologies and the access to capital to do it. All we need is the willpower to see this through.” 

Read more about Smith’s proposals in the Washington Post.