Corporate business still-life, in high-end office environment

CEOs, Speaking Out on Racial Justice is Expected from You! (Frank Sadowski)

Once upon a time, we may have fooled ourselves into believing that business leaders just needed to pay attention to their businesses and let others focus on the social issues of the day. If that ever was true, it is crucial for you and your business to know that time is long gone. Today, the public expects CEOs and other business leaders to play a leading role in helping solve social problems, with racial justice being particularly important. Both your public actions and what you do within your firm will directly influence the success of your business.

Morning Consult, a global business survey company, recently released survey results from “over 11,000 consumers, financial decision-makers, high net worth individuals, politically-engaged audiences, and key opinion leaders” collected in May and June 2020.* They found that those surveyed have high expectations for CEOs and other business leaders. Among the findings:

  • The strongest relationship to a CEO’s reputation and performance are whether they are contributing positively to society, are trusted by the general public, are leading the company to make a positive impact in the world, and are an exceptional role model. (And the more favorably a CEO is perceived, the higher their brand’s favorability is.)
  • More than 70% of those surveyed think that CEOs and company executives are responsible for setting an example for their employees and leading change within their companies on important social issues such as Black Lives Matter, promoting and nurturing a culture of inclusion and diversity in America, and in fighting racism and discrimination.
  • 67% say that “how businesses react and express themselves on topics such as this will permanently affect their decision to buy from them.”

That’s what they want, but when asked whether companies and their leaders were getting much done in these areas, the grades were failing:

  • Only 41% thought that companies were “nurturing a culture of diversity, inclusion, and acceptance within their organizations;
  • Only 33% thought that companies were effective in reducing and helping combat racial inequality;
  • And only 21% thought that companies were effective in reducing and helping combat police violence.

What can you do, right now? Over 70% of the survey participants want these things from business leaders:

  • Outline how your organization is taking steps to improve social, racial and economic equality in your organization. Express or reaffirm your commitment to ensuring your organization’s hiring process is equitable, inclusive, and accessible to diverse populations. Commit to ensuring that this will also be true for your supply chain. Provide specifics that will ensure this happens.
  • Express or reaffirm your organization’s commitment to fighting racism and discrimination in your community. Provide specifics that will ensure this happens.
  • Use your power and influence to demand action from government entities who have the power to enact systemic change.
  • Make a statement, whether official or personal, about your commitment to be an ally.

All of this takes hard work, and we in Vermont need to stop thinking that we are somehow exempt from it. The time is ripe for building a more just, inclusive country that is more consistent with our highest ideals. We at VBSR look forward to supporting you, providing resources, and walking with you on this journey.

*  For the full report, see

Frank Sadowski is Principal of Sadowski Consulting Services, LLC and Chair of the VBSR Board of Directors