Forum Institutional

Why tackling racism and racial injustice must be part of the Decade of Action

Protestors stand with a sign reading "Racism is Our Longest Plague" at the "Get Your Knee Off Our Necks" Commitment March on Washington 2020 at the spot where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech 57 years ago today in Washington, U.S., August 28, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner - RC27NI957G52

The World Economic Forum and GHR Foundation are partnering to advance racial and social justice. Image: REUTERS/Tom Brenner

Saadia Zahidi
Managing Director, World Economic Forum
Amy Goldman
Chief Executive Officer and Chair, GHR Foundation
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Systemic Racism

This article is part of: Sustainable Development Impact Summit
  • We have a moral and economic imperative to eliminate systemic racism and racial injustices.
  • The World Economic Forum and GHR Foundation have launched a new partnership to advance racial and social justice, starting within our organizations.
  • From 20-23 September, the Sustainable Development Impact Summit explores how multi-stakeholder partnerships can shape a sustainable, inclusive and just recovery.

The last 18 months have upended much of what was considered “business as usual” around the world. To be more precise, they have brought to light deep inequities that have plagued humanity for centuries – economic, gender and racial injustices, included.

Our world could see its first trillionaire in 25 years, while one in nine people go to bed hungry every night. Lower income groups, women and Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities have borne the brunt of pandemic-related slowdowns, with many social advances from previous decades showing worrying signs of reversal.

If there is a silver lining to this global crisis, it is that inequity is finally centre stage in global policy debates. “Leave no one behind” is the rallying cry of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the 10th Sustainable Development Goal aims to reduce inequalities based on income, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, race, class, ethnicity, religion and opportunity.

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Just as we see eliminating inequities as a moral imperative, it is also in all of our economic interests. For instance, in the United States, racism is estimated to cost the American economy at least $1 trillion a year in lost consumption and investment. Systemic racism is not exclusive to the US, nor is the opportunity to realise the full potential of all people in this pivotal moment.

By closing the racial wealth gap, the US GDP could be 4 to 6 percent higher by 2028
Racism is estimated to cost the American economy at least $1 trillion per year. Image: McKinsey & Company

How might multi-stakeholder partnerships help implement the actions, policies and partnerships needed to shape a sustainable, inclusive and just recovery – one that targets the needs of BIPOC and marginalised groups, thus benefiting everyone?

As part of this year’s Sustainable Development Impact Summit, we will explore this question and three broad areas of inequity:

  • reviving and transforming the metrics of economic success,
  • improving both the quality and quantity of jobs and
  • advancing education, skills, and learning opportunities.

Underpinning advancement in these three areas is improving efforts relating to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and social justice more broadly, which is addressed within the session "Tackling Inequities in a Decade of Action".

To this end, we are thrilled to be embarking on a new partnership between our two organizations – the World Economic Forum and GHR Foundation, a global philanthropy based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.

We know that race takes different forms in different cultural contexts, but racism — particularly discrimination against Black and Brown people — remains persistent and pervasive in every community, country and continent. If injustice and racial inequality are to be tackled effectively, we must first name and acknowledge them. Only in doing so can barriers to the inclusion of marginalised groups be addressed in global systems, organizations and the diverse communities we serve.

In May 2020, the movement for Black lives was reignited around the world. It became a catalyst for many organizations — including the Forum and GHR — to reflect on and highlight inequities that exist both outside and within our organizations.

Professionals of color and minority ethnic backgrounds continue to face racial injustice and inequity in the workplace, and they have been severely underrepresented in leadership. For example, there have only been 15 Black CEOs over the course of the 62 years of the Fortune 500’s existence, and currently only 1% of Fortune 500 CEOs are Black.

Little progress for Black CEOs in the US
Currently, 1% of Fortune 500 CEOs are Black. Image: Statista

To design racially just workplaces, organizations must confront racism at a systemic level — addressing everything from the structural and social mechanics of their own organizations to the role they play in the communities in which they operate and the economy at large.

As leaders of learning organizations, we recognize how much we don’t know. Still, we embark on this novel collaboration — one that will centre racial and social justice across multiple Forum teams, platforms and issues — embracing the discomfort of not knowing and a commitment for learning and action.

Together, with values-driven business, government and civil society leaders, we intend to build on the global movement to advance racial and social justice by developing and showcasing new models, embedding public-private partnerships and action, and engaging communities in meaningful collaborations. We already have 60 major multinational corporations from around the world signed on to fundamentally change how they think about race within their businesses — such as how they hire people, treat employees, think about their supply chains and more generally envision their strategies.

We believe this is only the beginning of an exciting journey. We invite you to learn and take action alongside us.

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Related topics:
Forum InstitutionalStakeholder CapitalismEquity, Diversity and Inclusion
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Institutional update

World Economic Forum

May 21, 2024

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