Jul. 19, 2023 8:31 am

Commitments to Social Justice and Inclusion

How Philadelphia companies are defining their impact and why Philadelphians need to hold them Accountable to Philadelphia.

photo by "Justin," used via a Creative Commons license

Philadelphia is home to several prominent businesses that exert significant national and international influence, impacting both the city’s communities and the lives of its residents. Three years ago, these companies made significant commitments to advance social justice, equality, and inclusion. Now that time has passed, what efforts were made and how did they fulfill that commitment?

Supporting Black-Owned Businesses

One major company was Comcast. As highlighted in our explainer story, Comcast committed to investing $100 million to address racial inequality, to date, this pledge has been fulfilled. Through this pledge, Comcast launched the Comcast RISE program, which provides financial support, marketing assistance, and technology resources to small businesses owned by people of color, including black entrepreneurs. As stated on its website, 13,000 businesses have been assisted through RISE since 2020,  9% or 1167 of which are located in Pennsylvania.

Furthering this commitment, Comcast has pledged to provide $1 billion over the next 10 years to address various social challenges through its Project Up initiative. – with a commitment to connecting people to digital and technical resources, career pathways, and equipping small businesses with the tools they need to be successful. While this pledge is ambitious, it represents approximately 8% of Comcast’s 2022 annual revenue of $121.427 billion. As their revenue increases and regression takes hold, what should that mean to their community commitments? It is important to consider the potential impact of  rising cost of living and increasing cable and internet costs, and reversal of policies meant to support these communities particularly since Comcast reportedly supports both side’s civil rights issues – issues that might lead to an exacerbation of what their commitments were meant to address.

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With a focus on Philadelphia and communities directly impacted by the 76ers, owner Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment has committed $20 million over five years to combat equality and systemic racism. As part of this commitment, $5 million was allocated for marketing, mentoring and partnership support for local Black-owned businesses through their Buy Black Program. While hundreds of applications were submitted in the previous three cycles, the Buy Black Program has made a more focused effort, supporting four organizations through their commitment since 2021.

Promote diversity in the workforce and leadership

Another critical measure of these commitments to social justice lies in its efforts to increase diversity within its own workforce and in leadership positions. In addition to funding, Comcast also committed to promoting diversity within its workforce and leadership positions. In 2020, the company stated in its report that 20% of Comcast’s leadership team was made up of people of color in 2019, according to the 2023 report, that number was 17% in 2019. When reached out to for clarity, a Comcast spokesperson explained that the company had adjusted its reporting methodology for their Executive Leadership Team and that diversity remained flat between 2019 and 2020 at 17%, pointing to a footnote on page 54 of the 2021 Impact Report that highlights this change. This footnote highlights that in 2020 the “Executive Leadership Team included the CEOs and their first- and second-level direct reports,” while they now only account for “Comcast’s Senior Vice Presidents and above, as well as NBCUniversal’s Executive and Management Committees.” Focused on this commitment and new methodology, that number increased to 21.1% 2022.

Like Comcast, several other major companies in 2020 focused on DEI, including Aramark. In July 2020, Aramark hired its first Chief Diversity and Sustainability Officer, Ashwani Hanson, through an internal promotion. Under Ashwani’s leadership, Aramark furthered several initiatives aimed at promoting diversity and sustainability throughout the company. These initiatives help attract and hire diverse talent, grow and develop staff and employee resource groups, and ensure accountability. However, a quick search on LinkedIn revealed that Ashwani has not been employed by Aramark since 2022. The position is no longer held by a woman or person of color and has been renamed Sustainability Officer. While Aramark highlights its impact around its employee resource group and executive diversity council, with a 62% “minority” hourly workforce and stories regarding racially insensitivity and discrimination, Generocity reached out to Aramark for comment on this change in title and person and their commitment to social justice, which was not made available at the time of publication.

Who is truly committed to Philadelphia?

The commitment made by prominent Philadelphia businesses to social justice, equity, and inclusion is commendable and has led to some positive initiatives. However, for a major city with a persistently high poverty rate and home to 13 prominent Fortune 500 companies, what impact has it led to in Philadelphia?

From corporate reports to requests for information, it is not clear what direct impact all of these commitments had on Philadelphia, which is why it is important that community members closely monitor these commitments and actions to ensure that they are sustainable and have a meaningful impact now and at the end of their multi-year lifespan. Especially businesses that are headquartered here and can have a negative and/or positive impact on the way we work and live. As time passes and circumstances change, such as rising costs of living and shifting politics, it becomes even more important for communities to stay engaged and hold these companies accountable for their commitment to social justice and equity.



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