What Do We Need from Corporate America?

by Alphonso David

Dear leaders of Corporate America,

As of today, hundreds of bills have been introduced in state legislatures around the country that attempt to erase transgender people, make LGBTQ people second class citizens, and deny marginalized communities the right to vote. These bills and others like them being introduced across the nation effectively deny basic and fundamental rights to certain groups of people — and they must be stopped. We cannot thrive in any democracy if, because of our identity, we are denied the ability to access resources, use our voice at the ballot box — or frankly — to exist under the eyes of the law.

In order to achieve equality, we need those in positions of power at the largest businesses in the country to rise up against injustice and discrimination; businesses that have increasingly, over the years, embraced the inherent benefits of being socially responsible. Corporate social responsibility means companies must integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and interactions with stakeholders. It means corporations must define their values with their own actions. In its most basic form, that means they must support their employees, stakeholders, and consumers being treated fairly under law.

Many corporate leaders have weighed in on systemic racial injustice, including the recent rash of violence against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. Although we certainly appreciate those efforts, they are not enough. Companies cannot rise up and speak out against hate in the streets but remain silent when they see hate being indoctrinated in our laws by state legislatures and in the halls of the U.S. Capitol.

Although many companies have weighed in to support federal legislation that would protect the right to vote (John Lewis Voting Rights Act) and ensure non-discrimination laws protect LGBTQ people, women, people of color, and religious minorities (Equality Act), they should not ignore the responsibility to take action against anti-equality bills at the state level.

Some companies provide protections for employees and their families because they lack basic civil rights protections, while systematically undermining their civil rights by not working to stop discriminatory legislation. To be clear, the lives of corporate employees are directly impacted if their rights are suppressed in the states that they live in — they become state-sanctioned targets, lose critical and lifesaving protections for their families, and ultimately live in fear. Further, ignoring regressive state legislation creates a patchwork of legal protections that make it impossible for companies, their employees, or their customers to truly thrive.

We thank the corporate leaders who have already weighed in, but we need the help of ALL leaders in corporate America to rise up and stand by the principles and values they espouse in their administrative manuals and on their websites.

We ask corporate leaders to take action now by publicly denouncing state legislation that discriminates against people, refusing to advance new business in states that are hostile to corporate values and refusing to support sporting events where transgender athletes are banned or athletes taking a knee are penalized. For leaders looking for a place to get started, you can check out HRC’s Count Me In campaign.

We ask corporations to go far beyond internal corporate policies or a freshly worded press release and involve all the levers of power that businesses have today. Principles only mean something if we stand by them in inconvenient times. We ask ALL corporate leaders to stand by them now.

Sincerely,

Alphonso David, President
Human Rights Campaign
He/Him/His

Can we count you in?

The more people who show they care, including allies and trans and non-binary people who speak up for the most marginalized in our community, the more hearts and minds we will change.