This article's preface draws, in part, on an article published in Harvard Business Review, "Entering the Age of Corporate Social Justice" by Lily Zheng, June 15, 2020.
Corporate Social Justice is a reexamination of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) that centers the focus of any initiative or program on the measurable, lived experiences of groups harmed and disadvantaged by society.
CSR is a self-regulated framework that has no legal or social obligation; rather, it is a trust between a company and its employees, customers, shareholders, policy makers and the broader community it touches, with the goal of explicitly doing good by all of them. Where CSR is often realized through a secondary program tacked onto a company’s main business, Corporate Social Justice requires deep integration with every aspect of the way a company functions.
On June 25th, Mastercard executives Ajay Banga, CEO and Michael Miebach, President sent an open letter to their employees. The topic: In Solidarity: Standing Against Racism and Advancing Equal Opportunity for All. They pledged to more deeply examine how racism and bias, LGBTQ+ issues and other inclusion dimensions factor into their government engagement and company advocacy work around the world.
Frankly, I often look askance at these types of corporate manifestos as public relation junkets. We’ve all heard too much discourse and promises made on civil liberties and social justice from too many companies that are, themselves, causative agents of racial or gender discrimination. Once the reporters are gone, it is back to business as usual.
This time, however, what I read from the Mastercard C-suite rang true. They are making more than a token effort at looking at their own recruitment policies, training and the advancement of their Black and Brown employees. They’ve outlined how they intend to take a close second look at the credit access inequities across the marketplace. They are putting an enormous amount of time, a lot of money and their considerable industry weight toward establishing racial and LGBTQ equity and opportunity. Those actions matter.
As one self-appointed proponent of social change, a fair distribution of our collective resources and a civil society, I am especially interested in Mastercard’s social activist stance.
1. Mastercard is making the commitment to doubling down on addressing the wealth and opportunity gap faced by Black communities, drawing on assets from across the company—including technology, partnerships, products and services—and furthering longstanding efforts to advance financial inclusion.
2. The company will be building on their Mastercard Impact Fund’s support for organizations such as the Community Reinvestment Fund, tackling issues faced by Black entrepreneurs and small businesses; promoting equitable economic development through strategies coordinated by CityPossible and ensuring that their work on products addressing the financially vulnerable take into account the particular interests of the Black community.
3. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome and Mastercard recently committed up to $125 million in seed funding to speed-up identifying, assessing, developing, and scaling-up treatments for COVID-19. The partners are committed to equitable access and affordability. The COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator will play a catalytic role by accelerating and evaluating new and repurposed drugs and biologics to treat patients with COVID-19 in the immediate term, and other viral pathogens in the longer-term. The Gates Foundation and Wellcome are each contributing up to $50 million, and the Mastercard Impact Fund has committed up to $25 million to mobilize the initial work of the accelerator.
4. Of great importance is Mastercard’s intent to expand annual spending with Black suppliers—including manufacturers, service providers and law firms—by more than 70 percent to $100 million annually by 2025, ensuring even more resources are directed to minority-led companies around the world.
5. This company of more than 14,000 will be empowering their employees to volunteer even more time to organizations and activities that most directly impact Black communities around the world including education and training, targeting 160,000 hours of added volunteer support for social justice, each year. With the value of $25.43 per volunteer hour, that totals more than $4 million.
6. The National Urban League and Mastercard are now launching the Entrepreneurship & Workforce Resource Partnership, building on Mastercard’s recent $5 million donation. The focus of this intensive partnership is to also draw on analytics and technology assets, mentorships, Mastercard Labs, and other resources to support 5,000 Black entrepreneurs by 2025.
7. Last, but certainly not least, Mastercard has a strong credit card affiliation program with Charity Charge. Charity Charge brings the first nonprofit credit card to nonprofits across the US, especially helpful at a time when nonprofit financial sustainability and risk management have never been more important. The Mastercard Charity Charge cards works in two high impact ways for nonprofits and charities:
- Nonprofit supporters (donors, board members, volunteers, caregivers, etc.) can easily apply for and use their Charity Charge card to ensure that a certain percentage of purchase benefits is directed as a cash donation to the nonprofit of their choice.
- For the first time, nonprofits can access a credit card, in their organization's name, that does not require personal guarantees or credit checks.
Mastercard has made a commitment to Corporate Social Justice. The company appears to have decided that it has a responsibility to fulfill its Corporate Social Justice strategy. It will be interesting to watch how Mastercard’s plans unfold and I, for one, will be carefully tracking the impact of their progress, moving forward. I’m hoping other companies can take their cue from Mastercard and other companies like them.
It's time for dramatic and lasting social change and big business is essential to our society's social justice and equity success.