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On racial equity, how can companies show they mean what they say?

June 8, 2020, 9:59 AM UTC

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Good morning.

Last week’s flood of CEO statements on racial justice marked a dramatic change in CEO behavior from the past. But still, at the end of the day, the statements were just words, prompting one critic to tell the New York Times this weekend: “It’s complete B.S. It’s performative.”

So what can companies do to show they mean what they say? FSG managing director Mark Kramer, who partners with Fortune on our Change the World list, offered ten ways companies can put their racial-equity talk into action–including a commitment to pay-equity, a living wage, adequate health care, and making election day a paid holiday so everyone can vote. His suggestions are worth reading here.

I think the bigger issue here is one raised by Business Roundtable Chairman Doug McMillon in his statement establishing a special committee to advance “racial equality and justice solutions.” He put Education and Workforce at the top of the group’s list of priorities. Fixing our broken education system, of course, is primarily a governmental responsibility. But creating new training programs that provide pathways to good jobs for people of color is something businesses can and should do. A lot of good work has been done in this area over the last five years, but the time has come to scale those efforts. Watch that space to see if last week’s talk turns into lasting action.

Separately, Friday’s encouraging employment report has rekindled the debate over what shape the recovery might take. Fortune’s Anne Srader explores the possibilities–U, check mark, Nike swoosh, square root symbol, etc.–here. Spoiler alert: it won’t be a V.

More news below.

Alan Murray

Many companies are speaking out against racial injustices right now. But how do they fare in their own workplaces? Black employees in the corporate world, we want to hear from you: Please submit your anonymous thoughts and anecdotes here.


All clear

New Zealand is removing all its social distancing requirements because, the government says, it has successfully eliminated the novel coronavirus. Strict border controls remain, though, and people will still need to maintain records of who they've met and where they've been. New Zealand's seven-week lockdown, which ended May 14, was one of the strictest in the world. Fortune

Shipping forecast

The shipping industry has warned that the global economy is in peril, due to a mounting crisis over staffing. Up to 400,000 crew are currently stranded at sea or at home by coronavirus travel restrictions, and many crew have worked emergency extensions to their agreements, raising worries over fatigue and safety. Those emergency extensions expire June 16. International Chamber of Shipping head Guy Platten: "You cannot keep working people indefinitely. Some have been on their ship for more than a year. The longer this issue goes on the greater risk to the supply chain." Financial Times

Worst month

April was the worst-ever month for the German economy, which saw industrial output plummet by 17.9% month-on-month. The production drop in the crucial auto industry was particularly marked (70% MoM) and even the construction sector shrank a little. On the plus side, the lifting of lockdowns should see economic activity and industrial output rebound for May and June—though external demand remains a problem. ING Think

Quarantine pushback

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary has called the U.K.'s new two-week quarantine rules for new arrivals a "political stunt." Airlines are generally against quarantines of this sort, because they are a disincentive to getting back in a plane, but O'Leary's point is that the U.K.'s version was unenforceable and not even a proper quarantine. O'Leary: "You could be in Sainsbury's, you could be on the beach, you could be on the golf course in the unlikely event the Home Office calls you–all they will have is a mobile number." That may be, but the rules are backed by criminal law, and those getting caught flouting them will be in serious trouble. BBC


Equity valuations

Are the markets defying gravity right now? Probably—but, as Fortune's Shawn Tully writes, there is a possibility that we're just entering an era of super-high valuations, because interest rates will stay low for a long time to come. Tully writes: "You can invent a plotline that gets the market to today's heady valuation and makes room for gains from here. But that's like watching one of those cinema thrillers where you can't imagine how the hero can escape, yet he ducks the gunfire and somehow manages to declare victory." Fortune

Out of control

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll has found that 80% of Americans feel the country is spiraling out of control—and also that people are twice as likely to be troubled by the actions of police in the death of George Floyd than they are about violence at some of the ensuing protests. WSJ

SpaceX priority

Elon Musk has told SpaceX's employees that Starship, its next-generation rocket that is supposed to be fully reusable like a commercial airplane, is now their highest priority (apart from anything that could reduce the risk of the return of the astronauts SpaceX launched for the first time barely a week ago.) "We need to accelerate Starship progress," Musk wrote in an email. CNBC

Moving online

How do you move a conference with tens of thousands of attendees online? Ask the organizers of the CogX A.I. and emerging technology show in London, who are using the forced situation as an opportunity to expand both the number of attendees and the amount of content in the festival. The show takes place today, featuring 18 virtual "stages" and 324 hours of simultaneous programing on a variety of topics. Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.