Black Lives and Business in the United States | Institute for Human Rights and Business

Black Lives and Business in the United States

Video, 09 July 2020

As part of a new series on Black Lives and Business, IHRB and partners will reflect on systemic inequities in companies, economies, and communities in the United States, how US companies have impacts abroad, and the lessons the US experience can offer globally. Implicit biases, perceptions of differences based on race or ethnicity, and power imbalances have created false and dangerous hierarchies perpetuating race-based discrimination, impacting how companies act, what they say they are doing, their actions, and the linkages between discrimination, inequality, and the global economy.

Can companies be truly meritocratic? How far do their responsibilities go? What lessons can be learned from around the world? As part of our series of conversations on Black Lives and Business, IHRB will speak with experts on what companies can and should do to ensure that they walk the walk and not only talk the talk.


  • Dominique Day, Member of the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent 
  • Andrea Shemberg, Chair at the Global Business Initiative for Human Rights
  • In conversation with IHRB's Senior Advisor on Global Issues, Salil Tripathi

NB: Ella L J Bell Smith, Professor of Business Administration at the Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College, could not join for personal reasons, but we hope to be hosting a conversation with her in the near future.


Questions Submitted by Participants

IHRB received a number of excellent and wide-ranging questions for speakers in advance of and during the live broadcast. We have shared those below to give a sense of the concerns that business, government, and civil society practitioners are grappling with in meaningfully embedding racial justice into their organisations:

  • There are business opportunities everywhere around the world,  we should more focus on how can we work together,  people need job to put food on the table,  nobody eat racism or xenophobia
  • Related to Mika's question. How should racial diversity, inclusion, and equality factor into investment process for global asset managers?  How can these factors influence decisions to Buy / Sell / Weight investments?
  • Do you think that all companies (of all sizes) have a moral obligation to make a HR/civil rights stance on issues that comes in waves in social media attention? Ex. BLM, LBGTQ, trans rights, etc. If a inc. decides not to, should they be "social media shamed"?
  • Given the rise of ESG investing, do you believe that this can be harnessed and if so how to engaging investors in leading change?
  • The Cdian Parliament introduced a bill that proposes mandatory modern slavery disclosure by companies in Cda, and an amendment to prohibit the importation of forced labor and child labor-made goods. If violations are found, no legal consequence is imposed. Does this go far enough as a first step?
  • It seems citizens have a responsibility to hold corporations and governments accountable, but it’s not realistic to have black lives matter protest everyday in order to effect change.  How can corporations be better held to account to end racial inequality?
  • Do you have examples of a "breakthrough" conversation you have where you helped someone understand the existence of structural racism?  So many people stress the "the past is the past...individual opportunity exists now..."     What has worked, in your experience, to change minds?
  • How can companies really delve into racial discrimination and its historical context in various countries - and as new business leaders are younger and possibly less aware of history (e.g. many younger managers have no clue as to what sullivan principles are)
  • What do you think about governments putting in place active employment measures such as a wage subsidy to help the integration of BIPOC persons into businesses?
  • Considering the current racial tensions across the globe how can corporations respond to racial justice issues that impact a country’s economic growth, a company’s business activity, or integrity of securitized collateral?
  • How should racial diversity, inclusion, and equality factor into investment process for global corporations?  Could you specify how these factors can influence decisions to Buy / Sell / Weight investments?
  • What models exist for dealing with racism and institutionalized discrimination? Do you think a South Africa style 'Truth and Reconciliation Commission' can work in the US or western context?
  • In corporate America, we've all seen countless statements from companies about their support of the Black Lives Matter movement. How can we push the conversation beyond platitudes? Is diversity in the workforce and at the executive level the right ask? Should we push beyond?
  • How can we have informed debates about problems like ethnic pay gaps when many countries prohibit the collection of such data (which is partly a response to historic racism)?
  • What role is their for corporations to fund access to comprehensive health care? Recently it was highlighted that there was an additional corporate funding model which provided additional funds to the police service which was viewed with controversy.
  • If the systemic inequality in the USA is driven by US focus on low taxation and low regulation - how can this change if states/districts have autonomy over spending and taxation?
  • How important are reparations in dealing with the question of racism in the West?  How can companies that benefited from racism provide restrospective remedy for negative impacts emanating from their dark past?
  • How can we in Africa, attract more black Americans Entrepreneurs in Africa ? From SOUTH AFRICA CAMEROON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE


This is the second in our discussion series on Black Lives and Business. The first looks at the state of race relations in the UK and the role of companies, raising questions about the past and present. As young black men and women seek to enter and progress within employment, enterprise, creative industries, are the ownership structures and senior management fit for purpose for a more diverse society? Baroness Lola Young of Hornsey, former UK Government Minister Sam Gymiah, and IHRB's Senior Advisor on Global Issues Salil Tripathi discuss challenging questions and ideas about the way forward.

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