The Canadian Council of Business leaders provides update on BlackNorth initiative summit


Wes Hall

The Canadian Council of Business Leaders Against Anti-Black Systemic Racism has released the BlackNorth Initiative CEO Pledge. It ask senior business leaders in Canada to commit their companies to specific actions and targets designed to end anti-Black systemic racism and create opportunities for all of those in the underrepresented Black, Indigenous, People Of Colour ‘BIPOC’ community.
“My co-chairs and I worked thoughtfully to put together a reasonable pledge document that serves as a starting point where like-minded business leaders can begin the process of addressing anti-Black systemic racism at its core. As business leaders, we recognize that it is not enough to just say ‘we’re behind you’. To effect meaningful change, the Black community needs business leaders to be at their side fighting for change,” said Wes Hall, Founder and Chairman of The Canadian Council of Business Leaders Against Anti-Black Systemic Racism. “Many Canadian companies have made statements condemning anti-Black systemic racism—it is now time to back that up with action by signing the pledge. By signing the pledge, you are sending a strong message to your Black employees, customers, stakeholders, and the Black community in general that you are truly against anti-Black systemic racism.”
The BlackNorth Initiative CEO Pledge, available online, asks CEOs to commit to seven goals:
We will increase our efforts to make our workplaces trusting places to have complex, and sometimes difficult conversations about anti-Black systemic racism and ensure that no barriers exist to prevent Black employees from advancing within the company.
We will implement or expand unconscious bias and anti-racism education.
We will share best—and unsuccessful—practices to ensure all companies have access to the programs and strategies needed to achieve true diversity and inclusion.
We will create and share strategic inclusion and diversity plans with our board of directors. We will establish at least one diversity leadership council and make efforts to ensure these groups include diverse representation, including senior Black leaders, within our organization.
We will ensure that Black communities across Canada are aware of opportunities of employment within our organization and that employment opportunities are set aside for Black people, including committing to specific hiring goals of at least 5% within our student workforce from the Black community.
As a numeric goal provides real impetus for change, we have made a goal of, at a minimum, 3.5% of executive and board roles based in Canada being held by Black leaders by 2025.
We will set inclusive talent management goals and include them in senior executives’ annual performance scorecards.
Companies that sign the pledge will also be expected to track their progress and share their results publicly.
“Research has proven that organizations with truly diverse teams perform better. It is our hope that the CEO Pledge and the BlackNorth Initiative can be used as a template for underrepresented minority groups across Canada. Simply put, if we do well for Blacks, we will do well for all,” added Mr. Hall.
BlackNorth Initiative Summit Scheduled for July 20, 2020 (2:00-4:00 PM EDT)
Signatories of the CEO Pledge will be invited to attend the BlackNorth Initiative Summit (the “Summit”); only CEOs who sign the pledge will be eligible to participate.
At the Summit, Mr. Hall, along with the Co-Chairs of the BlackNorth Initiative—Victor Dodig, President and Chief Executive Officer of CIBC; Prem Watsa, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited; and Rola Dagher, President and CEO of Cisco Systems Canada—along with other special guests, will unveil the BlackNorth Initiative’s next steps, including a series of initiatives led by prominent Canadians from across the country, each tasked with identifying barriers to Black people and developing concrete action plans to remove them. The BlackNorth Initiative recognizes that ending anti-Black systemic racism is a complex problem that requires a holistic solution which is why efforts will focus on the challenges facing Black people when it comes to health care, education, the justice system, community safety, at-risk youth, economic empowerment, and other areas.
To support this work and further expand opportunities for Black people, the BlackNorth Initiative will include funds dedicated to providing scholarships, grants, and other resources for Black students and businesses; building a cultural centre for Black Canadians to ensure Black history is accurately recorded and disseminated; and buying back important historical sites to turn into museums to preserve Black heritage. In addition, a series of partnerships will ensure that those companies who have signed the pledge, and are serious about making changes, have the support needed to do so, including executive search support to ensure the BIPOC community is represented at the highest levels of corporate Canada.
“I want to be clear with those who are considering signing the pledge. It is our intention to work cooperatively with you to achieve our objective of taking care of the most marginalized members of our community. The BlackNorth Initiative is being built to last and change the future of Blacks in Canada. We will ensure that Black youths in Canada do not face any structural impediments to getting a solid education; finding a good job; moving up the ladder; or accessing the health care they need. We’re going to start dismantling these barriers, one by one,” Mr. Hall said.