Senior Writer and Editor, Strategic Communications, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
October 31, 2019
This is the first of three articles looking at Project GO, a new initiative from the U.S. Chamber.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched the Project for Growth and Opportunity (Project GO), a new initiative that pairs innovative business solutions with sensible and sustainable policy approaches to help address societal challenges.
Project GO is a multiyear, multifaceted effort that has been in development since the beginning of the year to showcase and advance corporate solutions to pressing societal challenges, starting with three issues:
- Promoting corporate board diversity
- Encouraging environmental, social, and governance (ESG) disclosure
- Expanding investment opportunities for Main Street
“Businesses have an unmatched ability, and therefore, a profound responsibility, to shape an evolving economy that works for all Americans and preserves their freedom and ability to succeed and innovate,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Suzanne Clark said. “In turn, policymakers have a duty to create a framework that promotes practical and reasonable solutions. In today’s polarized environment, businesses are being called upon to do even more, and we are eager to work closely with public and private sector leaders to address socioeconomic challenges.”
For the purposes of this blog post, we’ll focus on the first of the three issue areas and a very important issue to businesses: promoting board diversity. In a world where demographics are constantly changing, it is essential for corporate boards to reflect their employees, customers, and the communities they serve and work in.
That’s not simply because it’s the right thing to do, but because businesses of all sizes can benefit from a diverse workforce and leadership. Several recent studies indicate diverse corporate leadership can improve corporate bottom lines and performance:
- 84% of board directors say that diversity enhances board performance, according to a 2018 Price Waterhouse Coopers survey.
- Companies in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity on executive teams are 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability, according to a recent report from McKinsey & Company.
“Diverse businesses are better able to create value, foster innovation, serve customers, and out-perform those that are not,” said U.S. Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Strategic Alliances and Outreach Rick Wade. “Leadership starts at the top and diversity on corporate boards is critical to America’s success.”
During a summit launching Project GO, Clark highlighted concrete steps corporations can take to increase diversity on their boards, while pointing out some past pitfalls that had proven to be counterproductive.
“The first [issue] is growing diversity on corporate boards — not through quotas or arbitrary mandates — but through disclosure and dialogue,” Clark said. “We encourage companies to disclose the gender, race, and ethnicity of their directors as well as director nominees.”
The U.S. Chamber also approves real-world, sensible solutions in the form of legislation to help drive diverse membership on corporate boards, including the “Diversity in Corporate Leadership Act of 2019” and the “Improving Corporate Governance Through Diversity Act of 2019.”
“They would prevent counterproductive quota-driven strategies that some jurisdictions have attempted,” Clark said. “They would also establish an advisory group to study and provide recommendations on private sector strategies to increase gender, racial, and ethnic diversity on corporate boards.”
At the summit, several business executives also shared the importance of diversity for their businesses. For Bob Fatovic, executive vice president, chief legal officer, and corporate secretary at Ryder, a diverse workforce and executive leadership team are imperatives to be seen as an “employer of choice” by potential employees.
“To be the employer of choice you have to appeal to the broadest base of opportunity out there,” Fatovic said. “To be competitive, it’s a must…Not only for gender, but for diversity. We spend a lot of time on that and we’ve had a lot of success…I think this is very important and it makes us more competitive.”
The launch of Project GO marks the official start of a more expansive effort to identify practical, sustainable ways to address socio-economic challenges, and is focused on solutions that are driven by business innovation and practical public policies.
It’s important to note that Project GO is not a check-list or short-term agenda. It is not a one-size-fits-all-approach or a rigid set of guidelines. Rather, it is a commitment by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the companies we represent to bring the best of business innovation together with practical policies to drive positive change in our economy on behalf of all Americans.