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NAACP CEO: How America’s corporations can help achieve racial justice

Derrick Johnson
President & CEO, NAACP

Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, will appear at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit on September 20.

Racial inequality has always had economic inequality at its foundation.

For over 109 years, the NAACP has fought for racial justice and economic opportunity. We believe that when everyone, including communities of color, thrives, our entire society rises at all levels. The manner in which we have fought has varied over our decades of existence, and we have always realized that our approach takes many paths.

While the United States has a very long history riddled with explicit bias and state-sponsored racism, the majority of us remain ignorant of the extent to which our internal and implicit biases impact us subconsciously. Regardless of our self-proclaimed objectivity or colorblindness, our biases, like our shadow, travel with all of us everywhere we go.

What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

As we move into the next phase of the social justice movement, corporations must play an increasing role in ensuring all people can participate, prosper and be protected. This is where Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) comes into play.

This means corporate responsibility must include addressing intersectional equity. We know that corporations can be leaders in social change. As such, we must strengthen leaders’ access to networks and sectors to increase, influence and advance social change. By practicing corporate social responsibility, companies can be conscious of the kind of impact they are having on all aspects of society including economic, social, and environmental. To engage in CSR means that, in the normal course of business, a company is operating in ways that enhance society and the environment.

For major corporations, these types of actions must become a part of corporate responsibility rather than always as a response to intolerance and implicit bias. We are eager to see an expansion of a movement to demand mandatory testing for implicit bias, particularly for officials paid with public dollars. It is for this reason that we continue to call for testing and training in implicit bias as a corporate and public responsibility to move our nation forward as opposed to apart.

The benefits of Corporate Social Responsibility

As important as CSR is for the community, it is equally valuable for a company. CSR activities can help forge a stronger bond between employees and corporations; they can boost morale and can help both employees and employers feel more connected with the world around them. It’s also valuable for consumers who can make product choices based on shared values.

The NAACP acknowledges that as citizens, we should all be held accountable for making democracy work for all people. In our own evolution of working to advance democracy and economic opportunity for all, the NAACP recently partnered with Impact Shares, Inc. in the launch of the NAACP Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) as a new tool to assist our corporate partners in evaluating their potential for social impact. It provides an opportunity for investors to take action and get directly involved in the conversation. The NAACP (ETF) tracks Morningstar’s Minority Empowerment Index and was constructed to reflect the NAACP’s vision for Equity and Inclusion in the marketplace. The NAACP ETF provides the Association another vehicle to garner the capital needed to carry out our 109-year-old mission to eliminate racism, foster social equity and empower communities of color.

We view the NAACP ETF as an evolution of the NAACP’s historic scorecard/report card model applied to capital markets. The NAACP ETF and the underlying index will help guide and inform companies in assessing and actively promoting racial and ethnic equity in every aspect of their business, operations and strategy; and to promote socially responsible investing in companies with a strong commitment to equity and diversity. In short, this is a new partnership and accountability tool to encourage our corporate partners to be the stakeholders we need to spark social change.

This is just the beginning of a movement designed to awaken the soul of our nation in ways that not only make us better people, but also a society where we are both accountable for not only what we know, but also what we are unaware of.

Derrick Johnson (Twitter: @DerrickNAACP) is the president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).