Americans Want CEOs to Eradicate Racial Inequality Within Their Own Companies

Statements and donations are a good place to start, but a bad place to stop

Hands holding on to a rope
Nearly eight in 10 consumers believe chief executives should ensure that their company's hiring process is fair to all. Getty Images

Key insights:

In the weeks following the deaths of Breonna Taylor in Louisville and George Floyd in Minneapolis, numerous brands have made statements and donated money to organizations fighting for racial justice.

Such statements are the first step for many companies, but hardly a place to stop. Recently, hundreds of Black professionals in the advertising industry signed an open letter demanding that agency leaders do more to improve Black representation, ensure fair compensation and establish a work culture that’s “more equitable and inclusive to a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives” within their own firms.

The view that more change needs to occur within companies themselves, it turns out, is held by the vast majority of Americans.

According to a new report from data intelligence firm Morning Consult, which surveyed more than 11,000 U.S. adults in late May and early June, 81% of consumers agree that CEOs should express or reaffirm their commitment to ensuring their organization’s hiring process is equitable, inclusive and accessible to diverse populations. Nearly eight in 10 people—79%—also agreed that chief executives should both outline how their organization is taking steps to improve social, racial and economic equality internally and either express or reaffirm their commitment to promoting diversity, inclusion, equality and advocacy.

A similar percentage of consumers said CEOs should work toward diversity, inclusion and equality throughout their organization’s supply chain and commit to more diverse and equitable representation at all levels of their organization.

On June 5, a week after releasing its 60-second spot titled “For Once, Don’t Do It,” which calls on viewers to take action against racism, Nike announced plans to donate $40 million over the next four years to organizations dedicated to supporting Black communities through education, social justice and addressing racial inequality. In a letter to employees, Nike president and CEO John Donahoe wrote that the company needs to “get our own house in order” by continuing to “foster and grow a culture where diversity, inclusion and belonging is valued.”

Inaction on the issue has the potential to hurt a company’s bottom line. Two-thirds of consumers, for instance, agree that it’s now more important that the companies they buy from have a diverse management team, according to Morning Consult. Additionally, 69% of U.S. adults said that how a company’s CEO reacts to topics such as Black Lives Matter will permanently affect their decision to buy from the company.

Recent research from Edelman came to a similar conclusion. In a survey involving 2,000 participants conducted between June 5-7, 60% of consumers indicated that how brands respond to the protests against racial injustice will influence whether they buy from them or boycott them in the future.

@hiebertpaul Paul Hiebert is a CPG reporter at Adweek, where he focuses on data-driven stories that help illustrate changes in consumer behavior and sentiment.