Dear BSR Members and Partners,
The brutal killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers last week—following on the previous killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Alton Sterling, Trayvon Martin, and countless others—is yet another example of the systemic and institutional racism that persists in the United States.
We are heartbroken and outraged by these injustices. This is a deep stain on the promise and reality of the United States. It has been for more than 400 years.
Black Americans continue to face repression and unspeakable treatment by the police, with too many innocent lives ended prematurely, and violently.
And while this inhuman treatment reveals this awful truth in the starkest way, we know also that there are countless other ways that so many are deprived of their human rights. Black Americans face deeply entrenched barriers in the workplace, in education, and basic daily activities: profiled on public transportation, attacked and murdered for “running while black,” and even intimidated when doing something as innocuous as birdwatching. And for the last three months, we have watched as COVID-19 has killed disproportionate numbers of Black Americans.
This is unacceptable, and it is time for change.
There is much to be done, by all of us—to listen, to learn, and to speak out—and then to act.
- For BSR: We have a long way to go. We can and must do more to become a more diverse and inclusive organization. While we don’t have all of the answers, we know we must do better. For us, this is a time to listen, to learn, and to begin to do the hard work we know will be required. And we encourage our partners and others in our community to hold us accountable when we fall short.
- For the sustainability community: We can and must become more diverse. And we need to work together, both to effectively and meaningfully integrate racial justice into our vision for sustainable business and to set an agenda for how companies can protect and defend the human rights of their employees, customers, and users.
- For business: Your leadership is needed on this issue. This begins with changing employment practices and investments that are critical engines of economic opportunity that can influence outcomes for generations. It also extends to using your influence, partnerships, and voice to change the public policies that have enabled systemic and institutional racism to persist. The anger and frustration we feel right now is raw. As so many of my thoughtful colleagues have said over the last few days of dialogue, we need to commit to change today, and not only that. In addition to speaking out at important moments like this, we must maintain this effort over time, and not simply when the world’s attention is upon it.
History is full of moments of great pain and tragedy. It is also a story of turning points. Let us hope—and let us commit—to making this a turning point, one that we can be proud of, and one that honors the memory of George Floyd and the many victims who came before him.