Putting People First: How The C-Suite Is Becoming A Place For Change

By Danny Diaz & Greg Strimple

Customers have placed increasing scrutiny on corporations in recent years, taking a magnifying glass to corporate policies and structures, philanthropic missions, community investment, and C-suite and board-level diversity.

Now, companies are being put to an even greater test.

In the face of the horrific death of George Floyd, and the lasting uncertainty around the pandemic, CEOs are reexamining how their companies will address racial inequity and injustice to make meaningful change both within their corporate community and outside.

Corporations have shifted their focus, taking time to reflect on what they stand for outside of revenue, shareholder value, margins and profit.  As a result, there has been a more than noticeable shift as CEOs put words into action to build a more diverse and inclusive environment to support their workforce and communities.

A survey conducted by PLUS Communications and GS Strategy Group, found that American customers strongly believe companies’ corporate responsibility strategies should focus on taking care of and supporting their employees, by looking internally and prioritizing the men and women of their own workforce.  Our survey suggests that this is the type of corporate responsibility and leadership that resonates most with Americans and ultimately strengthens loyalty between customers and businesses.

“There’s no market for half-assed diversity and inclusion efforts,” Axios co-founder Jim VandeHei writes.  Companies and CEOs who have made “empty statements,” without taking time to honestly reflect on internal short-comings and long-term goals to develop a strategy to play a role in change, have been received poorly by customers.

In contrast, companies such as Capitol One have matched their words with meaningful action.  Recently, Capitol One announced a pledge of $10 million to organizations advancing the cause of social justice for Black communities and are matching donations made by associates, dollar-for-dollar, to a number of organizations as well as investing in civil rights organizations dedicated to addressing racial equity and justice.

In addition, Comcast has pledged $100 million toward diversity and inclusion efforts, including providing grants to civil rights groups such as the National Urban League, the Equal Justice Initiative and the NAACP.  The company also said they plan to accelerate diversity and inclusivity training and hiring, as well as providing grants to black-owned small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than ever, customers are concerned about companies creating a genuine sense of balance between concern for profit and taking care of their own employees through a more inclusive and supportive environment.  With customers focused on a company’s ability to make a lasting change to the fiber of their corporate culture, it makes sense that CEOs do everything in their power to promote policies built on embracing and prioritizing diversity and inclusion, while at the same time communicating those commitments to their employees and customers.

Click here to view the full results of the survey.


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