ACCP’s Introduction to:
An Open Letter to Corporate America, Philanthropy, Academia, etc.: What Now?
By Aiko Bethea
Published June 1, 2020
In the weeks since George Floyd’s murder, the racial justice movement has been at the forefront of conversations happening across the country. Multitudes of businesses in all sectors, including ACCP, have joined in amplifying Black voices by writing letters of support, highlighting Black speakers, or supporting Black organizations. We at ACCP aim to continuously educate ourselves and, in doing so, found the following letter: An Open Letter to Corporate America, Philanthropy, Academia, etc.: What Now? by Aiko Bethea.
Corporate citizenship leaders are continuously told to “make the business case” for budget, a seat at the leadership table, internal programming, and more. Bethea’s letter, while written to business, academic, and philanthropy leaders, provides a strong argument for corporate citizenship professionals to start thinking about how to make the case that their department can have an integral role in helping reevaluate their organization’s internal pillars, structure, and support. Corporate citizenship leaders and departments are in a unique position to tie together philanthropy and activism, as well as bring together employee voices to foster equity at the core of the business. We have the power to bring stakeholders together to begin a larger conversation around the company’s approach to equity and begin to create change.
One of the many thought-provoking statements in Bethea’s letter says, “ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) are often the most under-valued and under-utilized Business Resource.” Historically, ERGs have been off the company radar as a strategic resource to consider equity issues. Many times, these groups are visible only to the employees who have sought them out. Often, they are called upon by leadership to provide activities during festivals around Black History or Pride Month, without being given a budget or additional pay for their efforts. Bethea calls on companies to consider what they are asking of these ERG leaders and what opportunities and benefits they are providing in return.
The way ERGs are supported and included can create a lasting impact on peers and culture. With a tie to stakeholders throughout the company, corporate citizenship departments are in the perfect position to raise ERGs above the radar, advocate the business case on behalf of them, and ensure their voices are amplified. This is just one of many ways corporate citizenship can directly and positively impact internal equity. We at ACCP were moved by this letter and encourage every individual to join us to use Bethea’s teachings as a starting point for your own internal systematic change. As Bethea writes, “there is work for everyone.”
We at ACCP hope this article begins a discussion about the role of ERGs in the racial justice movement. To continue this conversation, we invite our ACCP members to join us on July 23 for our "Trending Topic" webcast, "ERGS and Social Justice." Please register on our website.