Jun 15, 2020 - Economy

Fortune 100 companies commit $1.6 billion to fight inequality

Data: Fortune 500, Axios analysis of company statements, get the data; Correction note: A previous version of this graphic did not include Northrop Grumman’s $2 million and Progressive’s $1 million pledges; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The 100 largest U.S. companies have so far committed $1.63 billion to organizations fighting racism and inequality, according to company announcements and an Axios analysis.

What's happening: Since protests began over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, companies have released statements of support for black communities and pledged donations to organizations like the NAACP, National Urban League, Equal Justice Initiative, and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

  • The response so far is a significant departure from years past when many large companies preferred not to talk about the killings or the role of racism in the United States.

Why it matters: Even without including donations made by firms outside the Forbes 100, the total through Sunday was the largest single outpouring of giving and investment of its kind, though it accounts for just 0.20% of the 100 companies' collective 2019 profits.

  • The "impressive" total is "a down payment on moving forward," Andre Perry, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, tells Axios.
  • But it falls short of the amount needed to produce real systemic change, and does not measure up to the benefits reaped by many white-owned companies from racist policies such as slavery, redlining and segregation, he says.

The big picture: "I appreciate corporations giving dollars, but we need to have a set metric that says here’s what we should be aiming for in terms of correcting for the policy violence of the past," says Perry, author of "Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities."

  • "We’re not going to get to true recovery through pity and feeling sorry for folks. Black people were systematically stripped of resources and we’ve got to restore that value."

By the numbers: So far, 44 of the Fortune 100 companies have announced monetary contributions.

  • Just 10 companies make up 90% of the total commitment amount — the largest being Bank of America's four-year $1 billion pledge.
  • Excluding the 10 largest, announced donations totaled an average 0.02% of companies' 2019 profits.
  • The smallest was a $200,000 contribution from food processing giant Archer Daniels Midland, which earned $1.38 billion in profits last year.

Yes, but: Not included are significant contributions from companies like SoftBank, which pledged to create a $100 million investment fund devoted exclusively to companies helmed by people of color, and individuals like Box CEO Aaron Levie, who reportedly offered $500,000 of his own money.

  • The total also does not account for the increase in disbursements from charitable groups including the Ford Foundation or organizations like the NFL, which announced a $250 million program.

What's next: "What I have not seen is the strategy behind the giving," Perry says. "Giving in these times is a good gesture. However, giving without strategy can miss an opportunity to really uplift black communities."

Go deeper: Cities declare racism a public health crisis

Editor’s note: This piece was corrected to reflect that 44 (not 42) companies announced contributions by June 14 and that the NFL is not a nonprofit entity.

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