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As U.S. unrest continues Companies look to embrace corporate social responsibility

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Sportswear giant Adidas said the company promises to increase the number of black employees. Yahoo Finance’s On The Move panel weighs in on how company’s are responding to the Black Lives Matter movement and corporate responsibility.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: The story that we've been continuing to follow, and that is corporate response to systemic racism and to the protests that we have seen not just around the country but around the globe.

And on that latter point, Adidas, which is a German company, among those companies that's coming out with a response. It says it's increasing the number of black employees and also investing $20 million in black communities. It is setting a minimum of 30% of all new positions in the US at Adidas and Reebok, which it owns, to be filled with black and Latino hires.

You know, Adam, this is an interesting trend that we have been tracking here because the question that people have been asking in response to many of these corporate actions is-- and corporate words is is it going to translate into action? Is it going to be sustained action? Is this real?

ADAM SHAPIRO: Well, that is the key question, but the other issue is you're going to hear people on the other side of this concerned about quotas. How do you find qualified people, and can you set up hiring processes-- there are companies that have done this. We should get them on the program. They use the old Cleveland Symphony Orchestra model of where they put the screen up, and they were able to then get more women hired because they couldn't see.

So how do we-- it's more than just unconscious-bias training. There needs to be changes in how you actually filter who's coming into the applicant pool, whether it's AI or not, so that everyone, especially those who have been disadvantaged, have their place at the-- you know, in line.

RICK NEWMAN: Yeah, every little bit is welcome. I mean, we have seen some fairly large dollar commitments from companies to go into whatever they feel are the right cause. I mean, if you help one person, it's better than helping no people.

But we have so many major systemic problems, and the one that comes to my mind over and over is just education, subpar education in many urban areas. That is so hard to fix. And when you've got individual companies each doing one thing of their own, you're not getting-- you're not sort of scaling up to get the power of corporate America behind any single initiative.

So, I mean, if somebody really felt like jumping in and making a difference, Warren Buffett or Jamie Dimon or somebody-- the Business Roundtable. I don't know. Come up with, you know, a plan to pressure the governments, federal and all the state governments, to really meaningfully improve education. I don't know how you do it. It's certainly not easy. But, I mean, you've really got to go after the systemic problems here, and they are very tough.

MELODY HAHM: Well, it's subpar education and a subpar pipeline, even if you do go to a great school. And just thinking about even COVID, right, and how it's disproportionately affected low-income black families and how it is such an unjust system when it comes to health care, when it comes to being able to find internships, to be able to rent a New York City apartment, to take on an unpaid or low-paid internship.

I actually wrote a story this morning about "Bon Appetit's" editor in chief resigning, "Refinery 29's" editor in chief resigning over the last two days, and all that happened very swiftly. Let's keep in mind those systemic issues that we're talking about and just lack of leadership at the top that are BIPOD or Black/Indigenous People of Color. That's been longstanding, right, the beginning of time when it comes to the publishing industry in particular.

But I think there's a key moment right now that's happening that some people were pooh poohing, right? What will really change? I think what really changes is if you get the people at the top who perhaps did not create that structure but definitely facilitated it, definitely cultivated it, surrounding themselves with people who think like them and look like them. That's the only way to really make a significant change.

I mean, there's a really interesting organization that I've been following called the 15% Pledge, and it's essentially asking all the major retailers to dedicate 15% of shelf space to black-owned businesses, to folks who actually are black who are manufacturing, but also ideating on different strategies. And, you know, they're calling out folks like Target or even these one-off pledges like $10 million, $15 million saying that's not nearly enough. You have to actually have longstanding change where when people enter your store, when people actually interact with your associates, there is this sense of diversity and inclusion.

So I do feel like there is a significant shift. I know we tend to be cynical oftentimes as journalists saying, hey, this is a flash in the pan. Perhaps this is just one kind of wave. But I seriously feel momentum that's happening now, and it does start from getting bad leadership out.

JULIE HYMAN: Yeah, just to pick up on that point, Melody, I think that this moment-- and I'm certainly not the only person to make this comparison, but it has echoes of the MeToo moment, right, where you had this wave of accountability and people being called out for their behavior and then losing power, losing jobs, et cetera.

Just one more example I wanted to bring up of that is the head of CrossFit, Greg Glassman, who was a cofounder of that company, and he stepped down because of comments that he made to his own employees saying that the company is, quote, "not mourning for George Floyd." He has now stepped down from the company.

And then not on the accountability front but more on the allyship front, Twitter and Square under the leadership, of course, both, of Jack Dorsey making an interesting announcement that Juneteenth, June 19, will now be a company holiday. That is the anniversary of the emancipation from slavery. And we have seen other smaller organizations also commemorate that holiday. So all of these things cumulatively it feels like are going to start to move the needle.

MELODY HAHM: Yeah, and, Julie, I think one word that also came to mind even after the 2016 election was complicit, right? Ivanka Trump was labeled as someone who was complicit for those who definitely were not supporting Donald Trump saying that, oh, she was this progressive ally. She had this small business that a lot of people who are, you know, rich suburban millennials are buying. Why is she being complicit?

I think that word has definitely been thrust to the spotlight during this period of time where just because you're not posting a picture of brown face, just because you're not culturally appropriating something, that doesn't mean that you're a good leader, right? That doesn't mean that you're an ally, and I think that's something that we're seeing across the board.

Even as we speak right now, there is a safe space meeting happening for people in Verizon Media, for our colleagues. I would be on that call if we weren't on this Hangouts. So just thinking about the different avenues that people can actually voice their concerns, it's really kind of inspiring to see that these one-off tweets and this momentum that perhaps these people on Twitter or former employees had previously echoed, right now they seem to be heard. It's like a megaphone exists in this room.

JULIE HYMAN: Agreed. And we would keep hopefully amplifying those voices as well and covering this story. Thank you, Melody, for that.