This MLK Day, Companies Should Honor Dr. King’s Legacy by Reaffirming Support for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

As Attacks on DEI Increase the Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals Encourages Companies to Reassert their Commitment to Uphold and Resource Corporate Diversity Initiatives

FAIRFAX, VA – In recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the federal holiday designated as a National Day of Service honoring Dr. King’s legacy of working toward a more just and equitable society, the Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals (ACCP), the nation’s leading advocate for corporate social impact professionals, spoke out today to encourage corporations to commemorate by reaffirming their commitment to creating diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces and communities.  

With growing attacks on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), environmental, social and governance (ESG), and corporate social responsibility (CSR), companies have a unique opportunity this MLK, Jr. Day to reaffirm their values and demonstrate their commitments by fully funding initiatives necessary to deliver on the promise of those values.  

“Corporate diversity initiatives continue to be wrongfully assailed and the attacks will only intensify in this election year. Companies cannot afford to wait out this cycle without demonstrably upholding their values and sustaining the inclusive business initiatives that foster innovation.” said Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals (ACCP) president and CEO Carolyn Berkowitz“Dr. King’s prophetic words said it best, The time is always right to do what is right,’ and now is the time for corporations to value diversity, equity and inclusion. This proactive approach is ethically right and strategically beneficial for the enduring financial health of businesses and society at large.”

“Martin Luther King, Jr.  Day offers an important opportunity for corporate leaders to honor the spirit of this uniquely American holiday and respond to Dr. King’s revelation.  Now is the time to take action that protects and amplifies equitable and inclusive business practices and community support. These are the very same actions that give their companies a competitive advantage by fostering more pioneering products, attracting more loyal customers, and engaging more passionate employees.” 

Contrary to the narrative that companies are scaling back or abandoning ESG and CSR in response to criticism, most continue prioritizing progress towards their social impact goals. According to KPMG’s 2023 CEO Outlook report, 69% of CEOs have embedded ESG into their business as a means of value creation. They also recognize that there is more work to do. 68% indicate that their current ESG progress is not yet strong enough to withstand the scrutiny of stakeholders and shareholders. But progress won’t continue if resources are not commensurate with the expected growth.

Efforts promoting good corporate citizenship, particularly volunteerism, flourished in 2023.  As the only National Day of Service, MLK Day inspires volunteers nationwide to build positive change in their communities. Many of those volunteers are deployed through corporate workplace initiatives.  

ACCP’s 2023 CSR Insights Report showed that employee volunteer engagement continues to grow, signaling the importance individuals place on working for a socially responsible company:

  • 61% of survey respondents reported that participation in employee volunteer activities increased in 2023, a welcome sign after the decline during the COVID pandemic.
  • To increase participation rates, companies are offering a greater variety of volunteer options. Survey respondents noted increased opportunities for group volunteering (59%) and more focus on in-person volunteering opportunities (48%) while also adding more options for individual volunteering (35%).
  • 25% of survey respondents experienced an increase in their employee engagement budgets in 2023.

Source: data from ACCP’s 2023 CSR Insights Report

“On this day, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy serves as a reminder of the importance of diversity and equity in corporations. It should also strengthen our resolve to not allow the short-sighted criticism of a few deter companies from leading with the values at the core of our competitive advantage and creating a more equitable and just world,” continued Berkowitz. “Employee volunteerism programs increase engagement and tangibly align corporate values with those of employees. In today’s highly competitive talent market, employee volunteerism is an essential strategy for recruiting, engaging, and retaining staff.  In fact, a recent IBM study showed that 70% of job seekers are more likely to apply for and accept an offer from socially responsible companies.” 

In a recent Forbes column titled, “Following the Data: Why Companies Should Prioritize ESG and Tips for Success,” Berkowitz pushes back against anti-ESG groups and individuals in the vocal minority peddling false and misleading information attacking corporations for enacting business policies that engage employees, enhance bottom-lines, help grow our economy, and strengthen communities. 


The Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals (ACCP) is the preeminent membership organization advancing the practice of corporate social impact. ACCP increases the effectiveness of CSR & ESG professionals and their companies by sharing knowledge, fostering solutions, and cultivating inclusive and supportive peer communities. ACCP amplifies the voices of its practitioner network to elevate strategies that work, provide innovative solutions, and expand impact. 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  January 12, 2024
CONTACT: Jeanne Metzger | Vice President of Communications
Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals | 202-796-5881

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