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[Ed. note: ESG in the News will be published tomorrow.]

Juneteenth is coming up, and it’s another opportunity for companies to take meaningful action to support Black communities and causes. In 2021, both houses of the US federal government passed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act to make June 19th, or Juneteenth, a federal holiday. It was then signed into law by President Biden.  

For those not already familiar, here’s some background on Juneteenth National Independence Day:

“Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, or Emancipation Day, commemorates June 19, 1865, the day the news of freedom reached enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas.  This occurred two months after the Confederacy had surrendered and over two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the Southern states.  Although Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became effective on January 1, 1863, some holders of enslaved people refused to tell them they were free.  On June 19, 1865, union troops brought the news to the reluctant Galveston community and required the locals to comply. While Juneteenth celebrates the Emancipation Proclamation, which only freed slaves in the South, the 13th Amendment officially ended slavery in the U.S.”

With Juneteenth now recognized at the federal level, it creates another opportunity for companies to evaluate their DEI progress and enhance employee understanding of the experiences of their Black colleagues. Companies must venture beyond surface-level displays of support to understand how to shift power and privilege to address systemic inequity in the Black community.

There are a few ways that your company can meaningfully observe Juneteenth and inspire action in your employees.

  1. Encourage a day of service for employees to volunteer with organizations that center on Black communities and advocate for Black issues.
  2. Support Black Owned Businesses by partnering with them for individual or company vendor needs.
  3. Encourage self-directed learning by recommending books, podcasts, movies, and museums that tell the story of the Black experience as written, directed, or owned by Black creators.
  4. Assess your company’s internal equity climate and evaluate how your organization attracts, hires, onboarding, promotes, and retains Black employees.
  5. Use mentorship and sponsorship to support your Black employees’ career growth.
  6. Support your Black Employee Resource Group through resources and leadership engagement.
  7. Commit to closing the pay gap for Black employees in your company.
  8. Disaggregate employee sentiment surveys to understand gaps in experiences for Black employees and commit to closing any identified gaps.
  9. Support Black mental health by ensuring your EAP and other mental health resources are culturally responsive.
  10. Conduct Allyship in Action training or workshops with realistic and practical examples that empower employees to disrupt microaggressions in the workplace every day.

Given the current anti-ESG tides across the country, perhaps there has never been a more important time to take authentic company actions to promote Black communities and business. Juneteenth shouldn’t be the only reason to do this, but it can serve as a meaningful reminder about some of the historical bias and inequity facing the Black population in our country.

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The Editor

Ngozi Okeh is an experienced leader with a history of driving efforts to conceptualize, define, assess and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as strategic business processes. Ngozi is currently the Director of DEI at a leading marketing technology company where she develops and executes enterprise-wide DEI initiatives through rigorous strategic planning efforts, community partnerships, leadership collaboration, strategy evaluation, and careful management of communication and buy-in as well as policies and procedures.  Previously, she worked at an independent mortgage bank, where… View Profile