Jul. 5, 2023 8:56 am

Standing on the Promise

Understanding the commitments made to our communities and how far we still have to go.

Photo by Christopher Boswell, used via a Creative Commons license

Last week, the Supreme Court handed down several precedent-setting rulings that could reverse decades of civil rights progress, particularly concerning hiring and diversity efforts in Corporate America.

Three years ago, at the height of the largest civil rights protests of the decade, organizations across the country stepped up to the plate, promising to go beyond then-current law and their own internal policies to become more equitable and socially responsible. Fifty of America’s largest public companies and their foundations pledged $49.5 billion to address racial inequality.

At the local level, some of Philadelphia’s largest companies made the following commitments;

Comcast committed $100 million to a multi-year plan to advance social justice, equality, and inclusion. They pledged to invest in digital equity initiatives, support Black-owned businesses, and increase diversity in their workforce and leadership positions.

Independence Blue Cross launched the Blue Cross Foundation Racial Equity and Community Health Fund and committed $2 million to address systemic racism and health disparities in underserved communities. It committed to increasing supplier diversity and supporting local, minority-owned businesses.

The Philadelphia Foundation committed to allocating $5 million to the Black community in Philadelphia, including grants to support Black-led organizations and initiatives working for racial justice and equality.

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The University of Pennsylvania committed to increased support for community engagement: Penn expanded its commitment to community engagement by partnering with local organizations and investing in programs that address systemic issues affecting marginalized communities. These include initiatives related to affordable housing, access to health care, and economic development in underserved neighborhoods.

Now, three years later, what has become of these promises? How responsible have these organizations been to our communities, businesses, and residents?

A Washington Post analysis of the unprecedented corporate commitment to racial justice shows that to date, only $4.2 billion of the $49.5 billion has been distributed as grants nationwide, paid out in some cases over a period of up to 10 years, representing less than 1 percent of the net income of $525.6 billion generated by the 50 companies last year, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. In addition to this 1 percent distribution, “$45.2 billion was distributed as loans or investments from which they could benefit, more than half in the form of mortgages. Two banks – JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America – accounted for nearly all of these commitments.”

Throughout July, we will take a closer look at these promises and other pledges to see where companies in our community stand on their promises and how current legislation will affect their commitments and social responsibility going forward.



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