Achieving a Corporate Social Mindset Shift for Racial Equity

Standing for Change

Business Equity for Indy Chair Jeffrey Harrison has said, “In order to grow a more inclusive business environment, company CEOs, managers, and boards must shift mindsets to improve the systemic roadblocks to equity.” I couldn’t agree more. 

We’ve watched companies across America and throughout Indiana publish inspiring statements and pledge billions of dollars toward achieving racial equity, and it’s no wonder: Studies I’ve led show that consumers expect the business industry to play a significant role in generating opportunities for Black Americans and other groups historically denied access.

Many companies are following through on their public promises. In August, JUST Capital, a nonprofit founded in 2013 to help companies improve how they serve all their stakeholders—workers, customers, communities, shareholders, and the environment)—ranked Indiana’s own Anthem as first and second in its industry nationwide for supporting communities, investing in workers, prioritizing good governance, treating customers well, and minimizing environmental impact. 

Why do other businesses struggle to achieve equity goals?

As Jeffrey Harrison said so well, they need a mindset shift. In our book, The Corporate Social Mind: Leading Change From the Inside Out, co-author Michael Alberg-Seberich and I addressed how to develop the corporate social mindset companies need to bring out real and lasting change.

Traits of a Corporate Social Mindset

Companies are systemic players in society that can move us to care and act when they push us beyond our conscious and unconscious biases. This role requires boards and management to adopt and hold onto a specific mindset during every decision: the deliberate recognition of and action on issues affecting employees, people, society, and climate/environment.

The businesses most successful at adopting and consistently applying this mindset exhibit eight specific traits that help them operate authentically at every step. For addressing racial equity, I consider three of these traits as most important:

  • deciding with society in mind,
  • listening before acting, and
  • having a social voice.

1. Trait: A business with a corporate social mind decides with society in mind.

Decisions are never made without asking one question: In what ways does this decision affect and represent people, society, and climate/environment? Is this an inclusive and representative decision?

2. Trait: A business with a corporate social mind listens before acting.

Companies listen directly to people in the community before taking action. They ask, Have we objectively heard from those who will be affected by our decisions?

3. Trait: A business with a corporate social mind has a social voice.

Along with transparency (which should be a given today), having an authentic voice on social issues is vital to ensuring that consumers, the public, and stakeholders understand a company’s views. Leaders ask, Should we support others who don’t have the platform (voice) we do?

Companies can lead Indiana to racial equity if they choose to by developing a corporate social mind. By creating more opportunities for Black-owned businesses and employees who are people of color, companies will open the door to more robust ideas and innovations for the future of our state and all its residents.

Blog authored by Derrick Feldmann, researcher, author, advisor.

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