A Call for Racial Justice (Roxanne Vought, VBSR)

A Statement from VBSR’s Executive Director, Roxanne Vought

As our nation mourns the loss of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other Black lives lost needlessly and senselessly, we find ourselves in a moment that demands our attention.

To quote Anthea Kelsick, Co-CEO, B Lab U.S. & Canada, “We cannot credibly build an inclusive economic system without addressing the fundamental injustice, inequity, and violence that disproportionately impacts Black people and other People of Color. Racism is pervasive in the very systems in which our businesses operate and in our communities, and it is only when we center People of Color that we will truly benefit everyone.”

It’s not enough to have a principle, policy, or program focused on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Those of us who are white must start carrying the burden of combatting racism. We must talk explicitly about race and take action to dismantle structural racism and end white supremacy. We must give up positions of power and privilege. We must work through our discomfort to learn from others, transform ourselves, and be leaders of change. And we must not let fear of making mistakes keep us in complacency.

What you can do now:

  1. Educate yourself through articles, books, podcasts, and documentaries by Black and People of Color that highlight their experiences with systemic racism
  2. Provide employees with paid time to educate themselves
  3. Form an employee-led task force on racism to support the uncomfortable process of unlearning
  4. Patronize BIPOC-owned Vermont businesses
  5. Donate to organizations working to end police brutality, dismantle systemic racism, and push back against white supremacy
  6. Get involved with a local organization addressing racism

As I watched hundreds of masked young people crowd the Burlington Police Department last Saturday and raise a Black Lives Matter flag, I asked myself not only “what can I do?” but “what can VBSR do?”.

For 30 years VBSR has championed the opportunity and responsibility of the business community to protect the natural, human, and economic environments of our citizens. We believe sustainable economic development is only possible through diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. Yet we have not done enough. We must and will do more.

In addition to examining our own practices and culture, VBSR is developing educational programming to support our member organizations in their work to end systemic racism. If you have suggestions for business-specific resources we can share, knowledge experts we can provide a platform for, or how VBSR can help our members take action, please get in touch.

Our success as a state and a nation will depend on who we include in our economy, from entrepreneurs, investors, and company leadership, to producers, employees, and customers. Change needs to happen at every level, and it begins with us.