Part III: Act now

Actions to drive systemic change

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Equity requires system-level change, starting with targeted choices that challenge old patterns and drive better results.

Racism and inequity are systemic problems that require a systemic response. In order to build an equitable future, leaders must activate the full breadth of their control and influence across all parts of their organizations and beyond: from relationships to products, services to spend, governance to external interactions.

Recent survey results, though, suggest many of those options are too rarely used. In a January 2021 Fortune/Deloitte survey of 125 CEOs, 91% said they are investing in their talent life cycle to promote racial equity, but only 22% said they are in investing in their products or services to advance that same goal.1

What bold actions can businesses take today to create a more equitable future?
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The Equity Activation Model

The Equity Activation Model is a systems-based view for how businesses can activate equity within and outside of their own organizations, structured around three primary spheres of influence within the reach of every organization: Workforce, Marketplace, and Society. Each sphere, in turn, includes multiple activators—key areas of activity and everyday choices such as talent advancement; products and services; and standards and policies—through which organizations can exert their influence to activate equity, including racial equity. Within each activator, organizations take specific actions in pursuit of equity.

Click on the green copy to isolate each part of the model.

  • Spheres of influence
  • Denotes the activators within each sphere of influence
  • Enablers and organizational culture
  • Download the Equity Activation Model


    Across these spheres of influence, organizations need enablers that serve as structural support. Enablers drive accountability and support the actions an organization takes. Enablers include leadership; governance; resource allocation; legal, risk, and compliance; data and analytics; infrastructure; workplace; and technology. Without these foundational enablers, efforts to drive equity may yield few if any lasting results.

    Leaders could consider the following examples of responsibilities that can drive equity

    If your role is…

    You can drive equity when you…

    Board of directors

    Set expectations and accountability of the executive team; executive hiring and compensation; investment strategy; board diversity; community engagement.

    Chief executive officer

    Set organizational priorities; establish leadership commitments and drive internal and external signaling about aspirations and purpose; ratify strategic priorities around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI); authorize build, buy, borrow decisions (M&A).

    Chief financial officer

    Set investment strategies and portfolio management; consider and approve internal and external funding requests; establish wage and compensation practices; prioritize tax considerations and practices; set real estate strategy.

    Chief strategy officer

    Formulate corporate and business unit strategy; gather customer and consumer insights; identify and evaluate potential new markets; commission market sensing and trend analysis; develop M&A strategy and identify and screen M&A transactions; develop and launch strategic partnerships (JVs, corporate venturing and investments).

    Chief marketing officer

    Identify and approve partnerships and sponsorships; set strategy for social media, ad platforms, and other channels and communications platforms; design brand influence strategy; commission and conduct customer research, including marketing analytics and trends; set standards for messaging.

    Chief operating officer

    Set vendor and supplier diversity and strategy; create and manage contracts; set location strategy and office structure; adopt and enforce health and safety protocols; design and monitor sales strategy and analytics and supplier/vendor analytics.

    Chief technology officer or chief information officer

    Select and deploy technologies; design and collect data reports and transparency; design and monitor information flow across organization; consider biases and ethics in technology; prioritize design and user experience and accessibility; create and assess data analytics.

    Chief human resources officer

    Define workforce experience strategy to inform talent strategy and processes; design and deliver on financial, physical, mental, and emotional well-being through rewards and other programs; monitor pay equity; lead succession strategy and planning; enable a culture that embeds and values diversity, equity, and inclusion in all business operations.

    Chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer

    Set strategic DEI priorities with board and CEO; collaborate with CxOs to enable DEI in all spheres of influence; initiate and promote DEI programs; establish, evolve, and publish diversity analytics; encourage transparency and accountability on DEI ambitions and results.

    Download examples of responsibilities that can drive equity

    Organizational culture

    The Equity Activation Model suggests the essential role of organizational culture as the background or context in which priorities are set and choices are made.

    Organizational culture is “the way we do things around here”—the sustained patterns of behavior supported by an organization’s shared experiences, values, and beliefs.2 Culture both influences and is influenced by an organization’s workforce, the marketplace, and society. It provides the context in which actions are prioritized and enablers are expressed.

    Organizational culture is enduring, but it’s also always evolving, the result of an ongoing feedback loop between beliefs (subconscious, taken-for-granted assumptions), values (stated strategies, goals, and philosophies), and behaviors (people’s decisions, actions, and processes). As a result, it can adapt to new needs and changing conditions.

    Of course, as every leader knows, shaping an organization’s culture toward a specific goal takes real effort. Organizations should take a two-pronged, concurrent approach: challenging assumptions—including deeply-held orthodoxies—and changing behaviors that stand in the way of meaningful, lasting change. Continuously innovating and initiating new behaviors and beliefs will fundamentally change an organization’s culture, which will, over time, reinforce those behaviors and reflect those beliefs.

    Flipping orthodoxies5,6

    To drive racial equity, organizations must challenge orthodoxies—unstated assumptions that go unquestioned—that are embedded into their culture, and that sometimes get in the way of pursuing equity.

    We are an unbiased meritocracy.”

    An underlying assumption in a society in which Black people are systematically underrepresented in positions of power or authority may be that Black people are not as capable or ambitious as the White people currently holding those positions. But what meritocracies don’t often consider is that majority racial groups have had advantages over other PEERs (Persons Excluded due to Ethnicity or Race) for generations.

    Rejecting the notion of an unbiased meritocracy would enable organizations to tap into talent that has previously gone unnoticed or unconsidered.

    We don’t have a racism problem here.”

    The underlying assumption that an organization with well-intentioned or well-informed leaders is unaffected by society at large may be willfully ignorant at best and deceitful at worst. Most organizations reflect the society in which they operate—and racism exists, individually and systematically, within our society. Workers do not leave society behind when they show up for work. “Society” is in the office, right alongside them.

    Shifting this belief makes room to consider how organizational systems perpetuate societal biases and to take action to acknowledge and address those biases to advance equity within and through the organization’s actions.

    Advancing Black professionals will mean fewer opportunities for others.”

    An underlying assumption is that there are limited opportunities, so gains for one identity group must come at the expense of another. An even more pernicious belief is that those who currently hold the most access to opportunity do so because of a natural right to them, rather than because of a historically unfair system. Advancing Black professionals doesn’t mean fewer jobs for non-Black individuals—it just means that the talent pool is larger and has more available, capable, qualified people.

    Shifting this belief enables organizations to access and nurture a broader, richer, and more competitive pool of talent, and to realize the “Curb-Cut Effect”7 —steps taken to address the needs of Black professionals will likely benefit many others as well.

    Diversifying means lowering the bar.”

    The underlying assumption is that Black people are unqualified, which relies on two beliefs: a definition of “qualified” that remains consistent with historical definitions of what is required to be successful, and organizations considering narrowly defined and/or limited pools of potential talent, suppliers, and other business relationships.

    Shifting this belief allows organizations to both evolve their understanding of “qualified,” and assess whether they are looking broadly enough, to include those who could apply their skills, experience, and capabilities if given the opportunity.

    Taking bold action around DEI is too controversial or risky for our business.”

    An underlying assumption is that it is “riskier” to take a stand and act than it is to stay silent. This orthodoxy masks racism as “risk avoidance”—that is, tolerating or enabling systemic and systematic racism is less harmful than the risk or controversy of dismantling it. Ultimately, it indicates a higher level of comfort with the potential for accusation of inequity by groups who may have benefitted from the status quo, than with addressing actual inequity.

    Shifting this belief to embrace dismantling systemic and systematic racism and to drive equity positions organizations to attract top talent, retain consumers, and understand and lead in competitive markets.

    Taking bold action for PEERs,* and specifically for Black individuals, alienates other segments of our workforce.”

    The underlying assumption is that “other segments” do not value, and do not benefit from, an equitable organization. What’s more, it prioritizes those who have benefited from the current system, and the potential perception of “disadvantaging” historically advantaged segments, over addressing the actual disparate impact on PEERs.

    Shifting this belief enables organizations to understand and address how bold actions for those most affected by systemic exclusion ultimately benefit all members of the workforce and all within the spheres of influence of the organization.

    *Persons Excluded due to Ethnicity or Race

    We can’t find Black talent or suppliers.”

    An underlying assumption is that an organization can maintain the status quo and new Black talent and suppliers will come to them. But attracting “hard-to-find” segments requires pursuing them outside of existing networks and offering a differentiated and appealing value proposition.

    Shifting this belief pushes the organization to define an employer or supplier value proposition that is specific, compelling—and consistently evaluated for efficacy. Additionally, it increases organizational willingness to take new and creative approaches to sourcing—and, once talent and/or suppliers are engaged, provide infrastructure that mitigates systemic challenges within the organization.

    We measure individual performance on objective metrics.”

    The underlying assumption is that all workers show up at every given opportunity equally supported and that metrics are applied objectively. Neither are true.8 When organizations look solely at output metrics, they’re simply measuring the outcome of potentially disparate inputs.

    Shifting this belief would entail rooting out the causes of inequality in all processes and at each decision point and providing the resources, tools, and support both leaders and workers need to recognize and eliminate existing inequities. In the meantime, any comparative metrics should normalize data for systemic disparities.

    Equity is important, but we have a lot of demands for our attention and resources, and we need to focus on our business.”

    An underlying assumption is that “the business” is separate from and not affected by inequity in every facet of that business, or that driving equity and growing or sustaining the business are mutually exclusive. It ignores the many strong connections between “the business” and the changing context within which that business operates and that the long-term success of any business depends on its ability to adapt successfully to new and evolving environments.

    Shifting this belief can enable organizations to identify, plan for, and address the short- and long-term impacts of inequity in all their spheres of influence and incorporate equitable practices to support the health and sustainability of the business.

    Download the orthodoxies


    Equity requires system-level change, starting with targeted choices that challenge old patterns and drive better results.

    Spheres of influence





  • Plan and forecast
  • Define and architect roles and jobs
  • Source and select
  • Onboard and deploy
  • Enablement

  • Develop skills and capabilities
  • Communicate internally
  • Empower individual and team performance
  • Grow leaders
  • Advancement

  • Champion career paths and advancement
  • Manage succession
  • Incent, recognize, and reward
  • Foster alumni relationships
  • Marketplace

    Products and services

  • Innovate and evolve products and services
  • Curate customer experience
  • Marketing and sales

  • Shape and cultivate brand
  • Advertise
  • Determine availability and access
  • Price
  • Engage and communicate with the public
  • Ecosystems and alliances

  • Foster partnerships and joint ventures
  • Build and deploy business ecosystems
  • Supply chain

  • Select and engage suppliers
  • Manage distribution
  • Society

    Community impact and partnership

  • Give financially
  • Provide pro bono time and materials
  • Volunteer
  • Invest in communities
  • Standards and policy

  • Set and influence rules and standards
  • Advocate for and drive political and social change
  • Enablers

  • Leadership
  • Governance
  • Resource allocation
  • Legal, risk, and compliance
  • Data and analytics
  • Infrastructure
  • Workplace
  • Technology
  • Organizational Culture

    Which actions could have the greatest impact on racial equity? Click here to reveal.

    Though each of the actions named in the Equity Activation Model are critical to creating an equitable future, we’ve highlighted two from each sphere of influence. Our interviews with Changemakers—leaders in the public, private, and social sectors committed to driving racial equity—suggested that the selected actions will help dismantle inequitable practices and initiate more equitable outcomes.


  • Access | Source and select
  • Advancement | Champion career paths and advancement
  • Marketplace

  • Products and services | Innovate and evolve products and services
  • Supply chain | Select and engage suppliers
  • Society

  • Standards and policy | Set and influence rules and standards
  • Standards and policy | Advocate for and drive political and social change
  • Each highlighted action includes

    • A definition
    • Common pitfalls: Self-imposed limitations that may get in the way of effective action
    • Two types of actions organizations can take:
      • Baseline actions demonstrate that organizations are taking initial steps toward equity
      • Courageous actions demonstrate that organizations are taking bold, potentially pathbreaking strides toward equity
    • An equitable outcome: “What success looks like” when equity is activated in this area
    • Bright spots: Examples of organizations thinking creatively, making commitments, and taking courageous action to drive equity

    Workforce | Access | Source and select


    How an organization identifies and matches talent to roles and positions, from talent pipeline development to extension of an employment offer.


    • Focusing on vague criteria such as “cultural fit” and “likeability,” which tend to reinforce the status quo.
    • Using narrow filtering mechanisms and requirements that may artificially limit the pool of candidates (e.g., only recruiting at certain schools).
    • Focusing too late in the talent pipeline (e.g., recruiting students in their last two years of college with little to no investment in their development as students or professionals throughout their education careers).
    • Not including unconscious bias education and real-time monitoring during the talent selection process.
    • Using role descriptions and required qualifications in the hiring process with biased language or requirements.
    • Focusing on the human capabilities needed today versus those that will be needed to succeed in the future of work.

    Baseline actions

    Invest in a robust and early pipeline
    Acknowledge the depth and breadth of the sourcing pipeline, and proactively invest in skill, curriculum, and career path development across a variety of sources that provide a racially and ethnically diverse talent pool (e.g., schools, associations, after-school programs, mentoring programs, early identification programs, and skills development programs). Invest in curriculum changes at local middle schools, high schools, and universities to develop the skills and traits that the organization is sourcing. Additionally, invest in apprenticeship programs to help students better understand different career paths, develop tangible skills, and access paid opportunities.

    Reevaluate selection requirements
    Broaden selection requirements (e.g., knowledge, skills, and abilities) against which candidates are filtered and measured. Take a deeper and more accurate assessment of what it takes to be successful in roles and teams (this will vary by role and team). Once identified, explore the many ways those traits may be demonstrated and/or measured (e.g., balancing GPA against life experience). Once the requirements are established, ensure they are incorporated in a way that is ethical and limits bias in filtering mechanisms and technologies, including artificial intelligence.

    Courageous actions

    Disrupt traditional sourcing orthodoxies and develop skills in the market
    Create sources of talent rather than selecting exclusively from traditional, existing ones. Develop and administer open courses to provide potential candidates the skills the job requires today (and the skills that the job will require as work continues to evolve) and skip the resume/interview process once the course is successfully completed. Look to unconventional sources for entry-level candidates; turn to professional associations and “diversity” recruitment specialists to fill mid-career, professional roles.

    Equitable outcome: There is racial diversity at all steps of the hiring process—candidates considered, interviews conducted, offers extended—for all roles, at all levels.

    Bright spots

    Salesforce: Launched the Pathfinder Training Program in collaboration with Deloitte to equip participants with highly sought-after skills and create and provide access to pathways to technical careers in the Salesforce ecosystem across industries and sectors.9

    Apple: Working with Southern Company to launch the Propel Center—a first-of-its-kind hub for the Historically Black Colleges and Universities community—designed to support the next generation of diverse leaders, providing innovative curricula, technology support, internship and career opportunities, and fellowship programs across a range of educational tracks, including AI, machine learning, social justice, entertainment arts, and augmented reality.10

    Workforce | Advancement | Champion career paths and advancement


    The orchestration of experiences, capabilities, and achievements that position individuals to advance in their career path.


    • Holding Black individuals and other PEERs to different standards than their White colleagues, even unconsciously.
    • Requiring demonstration or proof of ability inconsistently across identity groups (e.g., Black professionals have historically been advanced, or held back, based on their proven skills or ability, while their White colleagues are advanced based on potential).11
    • Expecting preparedness from workers without helping them obtain the knowledge, skills, capabilities, and experiences needed to thrive in future roles.
    • Mentoring or sponsoring everyone in the same way with no consideration for unique strengths, challenges, or needs (i.e., Golden Rule: treat others how you want to be treated versus Platinum Rule: treat others how they want to be treated).
    • Not providing broad access to sponsorship and instead only offering it to “top performers,” which may simply reinforce inequity.

    Baseline actions

    Use succession as a development process
    Proactively identify candidates early for advancement opportunities, and actively provide them access to the skills, experiences, and roles on visible, important, and complex projects required to develop and advance. This approach looks ahead at the positions for which an individual shows potential and creates the opportunities for growth required to meet the advancement criteria. Focus on development across critical talent pools based on business needs. Provide all workers, especially Black individuals and other PEERs, early access to sponsors.

    Establish infrastructure for “reverse mentorship”
    Establish a formal program to connect successful, networked senior leaders with more junior Black or other PEER colleagues. This enables junior members of the workforce to share their unique perspectives, creating upward education, and it offers those same junior workers more exposure to senior decision-makers. A project-based approach—that is, providing a shared initiative or task—can also help both mentor and mentee develop new skills.

    Courageous actions

    Focus sponsorship efforts on improving sponsors
    Organizations should focus their sponsorship efforts on educating and enabling sponsors to use their influence and networks to support and advance their protégé; to provide their protégé with high-visibility opportunities; and to extend and strengthen their protégé’s network. In particular, organizations should help sponsors better grasp the unique challenges faced by Black individuals and PEERs and the subtle ways bias impedes success in myriad settings and opportunities. And they should hold sponsors accountable for the successful preparation and advancement of their protégés.

    Equitable outcome: PEERs, and specifically Black individuals, advance at an equitable pace and are proportionately represented at all levels of the organization, including in roles of power and influence (e.g., responsibility over managing an organization’s profit and loss). They are proportionally represented in succession plans and candidate slates being considered for key roles.

    Bright spots

    Microsoft: Microsoft committed to evaluating each corporate vice president (CVP) and general manager’s progress on diversity and inclusion when determining their rewards and promotions and to providing CVPs with dedicated D&I coaches.14

    Eli Lilly: The pharmaceutical company launched “reverse mentoring” for senior leaders. Workers mentor leaders to help upper management better understand issues of equity, in particular when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community.15

    Marketplace | Products and services | Innovate and evolve products and services


    The activities and practices an organization undertakes to create and improve its products, offerings, or services.


    • Not considering all users, customers, or consumers of the product or service during development.
    • Not testing for ways a product or service can perpetuate oppression and racism (e.g., not considering how facial recognition technologies make many more mistakes when used on people with darker skin tones).16
    • Including only a homogenous group of voices in the development cycle (e.g., underrepresentation of PEER perspectives in clinical trials).
    • Leaving equity and inclusion as a “gut check” at the end of development, rather than making it a key input to the product and service development process.

    Baseline actions

    Include diverse customer perspectives in development process
    Include representative samples of customers with different strengths, weaknesses, needs, and preferences across the development cycle (e.g., requirements gathering, design, testing) to ensure product or service is not biased, oppressive, or adversely affecting any demographic.

    Establish a representative development process
    Create diverse product and service development teams, processes, and infrastructure. By listening to a diverse collection of voices—at every stage of the development cycle—leaders can better ensure varied points of view and lived experiences are considered and accounted for.

    Courageous actions

    Design for anti-oppression
    Intentionally design products or services to work against oppression, beyond just removing biases. For example, a telephone operating system may include preprogrammed shortcuts to provide users access to support services.

    Design for underserved populations
    Expand customer segments to actively develop products or services that serve underserved populations. For instance, a financial services organization might develop specific products or services for the underbanked population, addressing and pulling down historical barriers.

    Equitable outcome: Product or service meets the needs of every individual in the organization’s identified customer segments. There are no oppressive, predatory, or otherwise adverse impacts on customer segments or individual customers due to the organization’s product or service.

    Bright spots

    Citi: Committed to expand the US Consumer Bank’s community lending team and its network of correspondent lenders, increasing access to Citi’s mortgage products and services among minority borrowers in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.17

    Slack: Developed a bias correct plugin that helps users identify gender bias by flagging messages and suggesting debiased alternatives.18

    Marketplace | Supply chain | Select and engage suppliers


    The sourcing of and interaction with any purveyor of goods or services to an organization, whether directly or indirectly tied to the organization’s core offerings or general operations.


    • Narrowly defining who is a supplier rather than considering all the ways the organization spends money on the necessary inputs that allow it to run.
    • Limiting efforts to only diversifying spend on minority-owned businesses rather than further developing, investing in, or connecting minority entrepreneurs.
    • Believing that there is an economic or quality penalty for diversity.
    • Believing that it is unfair or inappropriate to consider DEI-related criteria as part of procurement and contracting.

    Baseline actions

    Increase spend on minority-owned businesses
    Increase purchase of raw materials, goods, and services from minority-owned businesses. Actively set targets by business unit. This includes expanding the conventional understanding of an organization’s suppliers to include providers of a wider range of services beyond materials and components, such as insurance policies, 401(k) or other retirement plans, legal advice, or technology required to perform the job.

    Define DEI criteria for engagement
    Include DEI criteria in procurement and contracting. Require that both minority-owned and non-minority-owned businesses meet specific diversity and/or inclusion criteria inside their own organizations, such as representation metrics, programs, or external communication. Criteria can be documented throughout contracting processes and ongoing relationships.

    Courageous actions

    Develop and support suppliers
    Actively invest time, money, and resources into developing diverse suppliers. Provide infrastructure, industry and function expertise, and training and capability development to established suppliers; create shadowing programs, self-auditing processes (e.g., benchmark against other suppliers), and tools and templates (e.g., planning, quality, analytics dashboards) for developing suppliers; commit investment dollars, networking opportunities with business unit leadership, and other access to capital for growing entrepreneurs.

    Equitable outcome: Organizational assets and spending directly support diverse businesses and entrepreneurs, building wealth and integrating Black- and other PEER-owned enterprises more fully into the American business landscape. An organization’s suppliers are racially and ethnically diverse and foster equitable environments.

    Bright spots

    Yale University: David Swensen, chief of Yale’s $31.2B endowment, established new criteria for the dozens of firms that manage the endowment, requiring and measuring their progress in increasing the diversity of their investment staff.19

    General Motors: GM provides training through its 5 Point Supplier curriculum, covering GM process, talent acquisition, operational excellence, financial acumen, and Tier II inclusion.20 Additionally, GM annually recognizes suppliers for increasing and improving inclusion within their own supply chains.21

    Coca-Cola: In partnership with Georgia State University and the University of Georgia, Coca-Cola launched a supplier-development institute to provide educational support to small and disadvantaged groups.22

    Society | Standards and policymakers | Set and influence rules and standards


    The ways in which an organization leverages its platform, power, and relationships to define or redesign industry, sector, or other collectively enforced rules and standards.


    • Assuming the only “rules” that need to change are those set by the government and not the private sector.
    • Assuming that existing business or industry rules and standards are set in stone or would be too much trouble to change.
    • Assuming any one organization does not have enough power or influence to change the rules or standards.
    • Accepting that “that’s just the way it is” or “that’s just the way things have always been done,” or conflating tradition with the best option for the future.

    Baseline actions

    Assess the rules and standards
    Join a coalition of other organizations within the same industry or sector to review the rules and standards within their influence or control that may disparately affect Black individuals and other PEERs.

    Courageous actions

    Establish new rules
    Create or elevate third-party organizations, agencies, or measurement tactics to define and uphold widely accepted standards.

    Redefine sector and industry standards
    Collaborate with other organizations to redefine sector or industry standards that dictate how organizations operate. For instance, consider the Business Roundtable’s 2019 statement redefining the purpose of a corporation from shareholder primacy (from Friedman’s “the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits”) to a commitment to all stakeholders—including customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and shareholders.23

    Equitable outcome: Organization- and industry-wide systems, rules, and standards confront systemic barriers and oppressions with no disparate impact on Black individuals or other PEERs.

    Bright spots

    Oscars®: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced significant requirements to meet eligibility for Best Picture, such as having at least one individual of an underrepresented race or ethnicity as a lead or significant supporting actor, and casting women, LGBTQ+ individuals, PEERs, and people with cognitive or physical disabilities or who are deaf or hard of hearing in at least 30% of secondary or other minor roles.24

    PhRMA:* Its member companies “launched the first ever industry-wide principles on clinical trial diversity.” Though voluntary, these principles raise the standard across research pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.25

    World Economic Forum: The International Business Council (IBC), in collaboration with Deloitte and other professional service organizations, announced a new set of reporting metrics on ESG performance with the objective that “IBC companies … begin reporting collectively … in an effort to encourage greater cooperation and alignment among existing standards as well as to catalyze progress towards a systemic solution, such as a generally accepted international accounting standard.”26

    *Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America

    Society | Standards and policy | Advocate for and drive political and social change


    How an organization leverages its voice, power, platform, and infrastructure to support or advance a cause, public policy, or a model for government support and establish more equitable grounds on which every organization must operate.


    • Believing topics of race are not the place of business to speak out, step up, or stand out.
    • Keeping silent out of fear of saying the “wrong” thing when public or social controversies go against the organization’s values.
    • Writing statements on racial equity with limited depth, undefined action, or no specific commitment.
    • Sharing inauthentic messages that do not align with the organization’s demonstrated values, beliefs, and behaviors (e.g., words and actions are misaligned; leaders and organizational values are misaligned).

    Baseline actions

    Speak out
    Leverage organizational platform and power to speak out against issues that do not align with company values.

    Elevate issues in industry groups
    Within industry coalitions, companies should use their organizational voice to elevate public or social issues that need to be addressed.

    Courageous actions

    Organize for change
    Use organizational power and platform to inform, influence, and advocate for changes that align with company values.

    Pave the path for policy
    Incubate or launch equity projects and solutions that are beneficial and demonstrate an adaptable model that government officials and policymakers could replicate across communities and sectors.

    Equitable outcome: There are anti-racist, systemic policies and/or programs that confront systemic barriers and oppression.

    Bright spots

    Qualcomm: The company launched Wireless Reach in collaboration with nongovernmental organizations, universities and government institutions, nonprofits, development agencies, and other private sector companies to provide advanced wireless technologies to underserved communities globally, enabling services such as education, health care, and public safety.27

    A racial equity transformation:
    Our call to action

    Organizations hold an immense amount of control and influence to drive racial equity—which means bold, sustainable progress is possible when organizations and their leaders commit to action. Doing so requires changing the way individuals at all levels think and operate—and it requires expanding their notion of responsibility to include drastically improving outcomes for the Black community and other PEERs.

    Organizations must act now:

    To go from…

    …promoting DEI through isolated initiatives and symbolic commitments


    …diversity, equity, and inclusion as an integrated, continuously supported strategy and a measurable, rigorous approach.

    …DEI efforts limited to hiring and talent

    …diversity, equity, and inclusion driven through the entire culture and value chain of an organization (e.g., talent life cycle, supply chain, product, partnerships).

    …a sole focus on driving shareholder returns

    …a holistic focus on driving value for all stakeholders, including customers, employees, shareholders, and society as a whole.

    Every person—across every sphere of influence, at every organization, in every industry—has both the responsibility and the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in both the short and long term. An equity-obsessed mindset requires thinking beyond a checklist of actions to take and finish. Rather, it takes constant, sustained commitment from leaders and team members, even when it is uncomfortable or unpopular.

    And it takes all of us—working as a collaborative community—to build on these actions and discover or create new ones. The work is far too large, and the outcome far too urgent, for any one organization to go at it alone. So, we invite you to join us. To commit to taking courageous action, and to doing it now. And to call on others to do the same. Together, we can create the equitable future we wish to see.

    Now, let’s get to work.

    Deloitte’s commitment to racial equity28

    Taking action against systemic bias, racism, and unequal treatment

    We have a responsibility—as a purpose-driven enterprise focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion—to take a stand and make a difference on important societal issues.


    • Dr. Richard Besser | CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
    • Dr. Robert Brown | President, Boston University
    • David Clunie | Executive Director, Black Economic Alliance
    • Dr. Stephanie Creary | Assistant professor of management, organizational scholar at the Wharton School
    • Cathy Engelbert | Commissioner, WNBA
    • Valerie Jarrett | Former senior adviser to President Barack Obama; Board member, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Ralph Lauren, Lyft, 2U, Ariel Investments, and Sweetgreen
    • Bahja Johnson | Head of Customer Belonging, Gap Inc.
    • Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall | Former Chief Patient Officer and Chief Medical Officer at Pfizer
    • Doug McMillon | CEO, Walmart; Chair, Business Roundtable
    • Steven Olikara | Founder and CEO, Millennial Action Project
    • Valerie Irick Rainford | CEO, Elloree Talent Strategies
    • John Rice | Founder and CEO, Management Leadership for Tomorrow
    • Elliott Robinson | Partner, Bessemer Venture Partners; Founding Member, BLCK VC
    • Dr. Sally Saba | Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer, Medtronic
    • Shelley Stewart | Chairman, Billion Dollar Roundtable; Former Chief Procurement Officer, DuPont
    • Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum | President Emerita, Spelman College

    Additional thanks

    In addition to the writers, Changemakers, and other contributors cited within, the authors express their gratitude for the many people at Deloitte who provided input and supported the development of this report. The ideas and perspectives represented are informed by a diverse group of professionals and leaders who work across our different businesses, industries, and disciplines, each with unique experiences, thoughts, and visions of a more equitable future. We are abundantly thankful for their contributions.


    Andrew Blau
    US Leader – Eminence & Insights
    Managing Director | Deloitte Consulting LLP

    Joanne Stephane
    Human Capital, US Leader –
    HR Strategy & Solutions
    Human Capital, Chief DEI Officer
    Principal | Deloitte Consulting LLP

    Janet Foutty
    Executive Chair of the Board
    Principal | Deloitte US

    Kavitha Prabhakar
    Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
    Officer – Deloitte US Firms
    Principal | Deloitte Consulting LLP


    Lauren Lubetsky
    Deloitte Consulting LLP

    Ale Treviño
    Customer & Marketing
    Deloitte Consulting LLP

    Devon Dickau
    Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
    Client Service Practice
    Deloitte Consulting LLP

    Deshawn Adams
    Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
    Client Service Practice
    Deloitte Consulting LLP

    Raj Tilwa
    Strategy & Analytics
    Deloitte Consulting LLP

    Richard Jucks
    Deloitte Consulting Platforms
    Deloitte Consulting LLP

    Additional leadership and thanks

    Christina Brodzik
    National Leader – Diversity,
    Equity, and Inclusion Client
    Service Practice
    Principal | Deloitte Consulting LLP

    Terri Cooper
    Vice Chair of External Diversity,
    Equity, and Inclusion
    Principal | Deloitte Consulting LLP

    Sarah Cuthill
    Board Secretary
    Senior Advisor – Diversity, Equity,
    and Inclusion
    Principal | Deloitte

    Tonie Leatherberry
    Chair Emeritus, The Executive
    Leadership Council
    Retired Principal | Deloitte & Touche LLP

    Kwasi Mitchell
    Chief Purpose Officer –
    Deloitte US Firms
    Principal | Deloitte Consulting LLP


    1. Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey, October 2020 highlights.
    2. Ready, Set, Activate! Catalyze your culture for sustained results, July 2019.
    3. Interview with Stephanie Creary, September 2020.
    4. Interview with Elliott Robinson, September 2020.
    5. Interview with Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, September 2020.
    6. The importance of challenging or “flipping” orthodoxies is outlined in Detonate: Why and How Companies Must Blow Up Best Practices by Geoff Tuff and Steve Goldbach (John Wiley & Sons, 2018), which defines an orthodoxy as “a belief or way of thinking that is accepted as true or correct” and “a pervasive belief that goes unstated and unchallenged” (pp. 14–15).
    7. Angela Glover Blackwell, “The Curb-Cut Effect,” Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2017.
    8. See, for example, Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev, “Why Diversity Programs Fail,” Harvard Business Review, July–August 2016: “[S]tudies show that raters tend to lowball women and minorities in performance reviews.”
    9. Salesforce, “Become a Salesforce Pathfinder,” accessed December 2020.
    10. Apple, “Apple launches major new Racial Equity and Justice Initiative projects to challenge systemic racism, advance racial equity nationwide,” January 2021.
    11. Shelcy V. Joseph, “How to root out bias in performance reviews for good,” Forbes, December 30, 2019.
    12. Sylvia Ann Hewlett, “Too many people of color feel uncomfortable at work,” Harvard Business Review, October 18, 2012.
    13. Ibid.
    14. Satya Nadella, “Addressing racial injustice,” Microsoft, June 23, 2020.
    15. Eli Lilly and Company, “LGBTQ Employees Reverse-Mentor Lilly Senior Leaders,” January 1, 2020.
    16. National Institute of Standards and Technology, “NIST Study Evaluates Effects of Race, Age, Sex on Face Recognition Software,” December 19, 2019.
    17. Citi Consumer Businesses, “Citi Launches More Than $1 Billion in Strategic Initiatives to Help Close the Racial Wealth Gap,” September 23, 2020.
    18. Catalyst, “#BiasCorrect Install,” accessed November 2020.
    19. Juliet Chung and Dawn Lim, “Yale’s David Swensen Puts Money Managers on Notice About Diversity,” Wall Street Journal, October 23, 2020.
    20. General Motors, Diversity & Inclusion Report, 2017, accessed December 2020.
    21. General Motors, “Fostering Diversity, Equity & Inclusion,” in 2019 Sustainability Report, accessed December 2020.
    22. University of Georgia Small Business Development Center, “The Coca-Cola Company Supplier Development Institute (C3SDI),” accessed January 2021.
    23. Business Roundtable, “Business Roundtable redefines the purpose of a corporation to promote ‘an economy that serves all Americans’,” August 19, 2019.
    24. Pete Hammond, “Oscar Shakes Up Best Picture Eligibility Standards; Strict New Diversity Requirements Take Full Effect In 2024,” Deadline, September 8, 2020.
    25. PhRMA, “PhRMA Principles on Conduct of Clinical Trials,” October 14, 2020.
    26. World Economic Forum, Measuring Stakeholder Capitalism: Towards Common Metrics and Consistent Reporting of Sustainable Value Creation, September 2020.
    27. Qualcomm, “Wireless Reach,” accessed December 2020.
    28. Deloitte, “How we take action against systemic bias, racism, and unequal treatment.”
    29. Interview with President Robert Brown, September 2020.
    30. Interview with Richard Besser, October 2020.