Editorial: Equity pledge is strong step forward in continuing conversation about race

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It’s been nearly five months since the death of George Floyd at the hands—or in this shocking case, the knee—of a police officer in Minneapolis, sparking protests in Indianapolis and across the country.

Those protests, which sometimes turned violent, reignited conversations about race and social justice that are important and necessary.

We say reignite because this certainly isn’t the first time the nation has faced questions about police actions or about racism or inequities. But too often, the debates grip our nation only at times of obvious trouble and then go stale when attention about an incident fades.

So we’re pleased to see some of central Indiana’s most important employers unite behind the Indy Racial Equity Pledge, which promises to continue the conversation about social justice into the months and years ahead.

The organizations—Anthem Inc., Citizens Energy Group, Cummins Inc., Eli Lilly and Co., Indiana University Health, Indianapolis Colts, Pacers Sports & Entertainment, Roche Diagnostics USA and Salesforce—are publicizing plans to improve racial equity within their organizations, the Indianapolis area, and beyond.

(See page 1A for a story about the effort and more detail about the individual pledges.)

IBJ’s Susan Orr reports that the equity pledge traces its roots back to June—shortly after the protests—when Lilly publicly pledged $25 million and 25,000 volunteer hours to combat racial inequality over the next five years. The pledge spurred interest among other local employers.

“Companies were coming forward saying they wanted to do something similar,” said Lilly Chief Financial Officer Josh Smiley, who is one of the leaders of the company’s pledge efforts.

The Indy Racial Equity Pledge is open to other companies that want to participate.

What we like about the effort is that it lets companies determine their own goals, depending on their own industries and circumstances, rather than forcing a set of specific goals on participants. That matters, because some companies that already have a diverse workforce might need to work on diversifying suppliers. Others might have diversity among front-line workers but not managers and executives. And still others can create goals based on their expertise, such as health care or manufacturing.

Also important is that the organizations have posted their commitments online and have promised to provide updates about how they’re doing. We like the accountability that creates.

And we urge more companies to make similar commitments, whether they do so publicly by participating in the equity pledge or privately with accountability from within their own organizations.

Of course, not every company is in a position to provide millions of dollars or thousands of volunteer hours to organizations involved in social equity. But leaders of all firms can think about whom and how they hire, can reevaluate from whom they buy supplies and why, and can consider whether their culture is inclusive and welcoming.

The key is to keep moving toward a goal of an inclusive community where such commitments aren’t necessary but are a natural way of doing business. Until then, though, we must be intentional about keeping the conversation moving forward.•


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