CECP’s DEI Journey: Leading with Humility

By Kari Niedfeldt-Thomas Managing Director, Corporate Strategy & Impact, CECP

As we commemorate the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd which occurred on May 25, 2020, we have seen this killing spark a national reckoning, a burning in our hearts as we call for action, and a beacon of light in the movement for racial justice. CECP reflects on our journey made both inside our organization and with our coalition companies. We are also looking to the hard work that lies ahead. CECP recognizes the weight of the past year, with the convergent crises of Covid-19, racial injustice, and economic hardship has been carried heavily and viscerally, and not equally by all.

CECP, together with partner associations ACCP, Points of Light, and Council on Foundations, spent the spring of 2020 supporting leaders in corporate purpose respond to the Covid health and economic crisis by hosting frequent Corporate Peer Discussions on topics including food insecurity, educational access, supporting small business, and re-tooling the workforce. Throughout these conversations, regardless of topic, the through-line was the inequity in the disproportionate impact on communities of color and other vulnerable populations. In response, companies addressed areas of greatest need, keeping their existing community commitments, leveraging their supply chains, streamlining their grantmaking processes, and shifting strategies in real-time to support communities.

After George Floyd was killed, individuals, organizations, and societies demanded justice in allyship with the Black community. Simultaneously, we were all prompted to reflect on our complicity in perpetuating norms and cultures that benefit white members of society and harm communities of color through implicit beliefs, decision-making processes, hiring practices, systems of preserving wealth, and structural barriers to advancement.

While the first instinct in the face of crisis is to act, which many did through protest, commitments, and statements of anti-racism, the moment also called for the opposite: listening, reflection, and transformation. CECP, through our work with ACCP, Council on Foundations, and Points of Light, facilitated a moment to reflect with the leaders of companies. Entitled, “Racial Equity: Moving Companies from Promise to Action,” the two-day event featured community leaders and social justice voices to help corporate professionals better listen to their partners, lead with humility, hold themselves accountable, and commit to a long process of ending systemic racism.

Today is the first day of our annual CECP Summit where our virtual stage will highlight voices such as Michael Smith from My Brother’s Keeper Alliance; commitments on digital inclusion, creation of good paying jobs, economic inclusion with second chance hiring, and justice in national parks; and conversations on topics such as the CEO’s role in racial equity, the intersection between corporate social responsibility and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and more.

CECP realizes that its role as an advisor and trusted partner to companies is contingent upon authentic leadership. In this journey, CECP has been working on its own efforts in tandem with companies. Like many companies, CECP has been challenged to listen first and accept feedback, with humility. CECP’s anti-racism statement and those of our companies are only as strong as our practices and actions—including our internal operations, priorities for company programming, and ability to amplify underrepresented voices through our platforms. On this day, we affirm our continued commitment to those statements and acting on them each and every day. Holocaust survivor, scientist, and author Victor Frankl wrote, “What is to give light must endure burning.” May we each stare into the light from the flames of injustice and find our courage to act with passion. Focus on the vision, put aside fears, and know that what is difficult is worthy of giving light.

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