Manager of Social Sustainability, UN Global Compact Network Canada
When organizations commit to initiatives like Canada’s 50 — 30 Challenge, they begin the meaningful work of breaking down longstanding systemic barriers.
Black History Month, observed annually every February in Canada, is a powerful reminder that anti-Black racism remains embedded in our structures, systems, and society. The theme for 2023, “Ours to tell,” is an open call for Canadians to learn more about Black communities and their history, experiences, perspectives, culture, and legacy. These stories were relegated to the margins for decades by those in positions of power, but we can all be part of a movement to illuminate them and ensure that Black people’s contributions to the building of Canada and its socio-cultural identity are widely recognized.
The reality of ongoing discrimination
The fact of the matter is that Black people in Canada are still far more likely to experience everyday discrimination compared to other racial groups: 41 per cent reported in 2019 that they experienced racial discrimination in the last five years. One of the most common places that Black people experience discrimination and microaggressions is in the workplace. While businesses have a responsibility to ensure an equitable, respectful, safe, and inclusive working environment for all their employees, workers, vendors, clients, and other stakeholders, this will look different depending on the needs of specific equity-deserving groups. And while progress is slow, we’re seeing an amplified commitment: according to the 12th United Nations Global Compact-Accenture CEO Study (2023), 56 per cent of CEOs are actively working to increase diversity across their organizations as a means to build more resilient, innovative, and talent-rich businesses. As these numbers continue to grow, organizations that fail to recognize the value of diversity across all levels of an organization, but especially at senior or executive levels and on boards of directors, will be left behind.
Taking meaningful action toward change
A strong first step that all businesses can take regardless of size, sector, or industry is making a public commitment to advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion via setting representation targets or goals. Over 1,800 organizations across Canada have signed the 50 — 30 Challenge, a Government of Canada initiative that encourages businesses to commit to meeting the following representation targets on boards and in senior management roles: 50 per cent women or non-binary individuals, and 30 per cent significant representation of equity-deserving groups (racialized people including Black people, Indigenous people, those with disabilities, and members of the LGBTIQ2S+ community). By signing up to the 50 — 30 Challenge, organizations across Canada are signalling that equity, diversity, and inclusion are top business priorities and they’re tapping in to free support and services, such as the What Works Toolkit, which is being offered by Ecosystem Partners (including UN Global Compact Network Canada) to build capacity for this critical work.
Begin or build upon your organization’s efforts to eliminate anti-Black racism by committing to work toward achieving representation goals for Black people and other equity-deserving groups (even if they may be stretch goals at the beginning). These efforts can change the face of corporate Canada to break down longstanding systemic barriers and ensure our workplaces better reflects our society, culture, and values.
To learn more how the UN Global Compact can support your business, visit unglobalcompact.org.