Air Date

July 27, 2021

Featured Guests

Kristin Lord
President and CEO, IREX

Brooks Nelson
Former Senior Director, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation


Justin Knighten
Director, Office of External Affairs, Office of the Administrator, FEMA


As companies reflect on the challenges of 2020, they must also confront what it means to be equitable. After a summer of unrest and COVID-19 disproportionately affecting underserved communities, corporations have realized they need to increase their efforts to be fair and impartial.

Leaders are now addressing the equity gap within their own companies in order to serve their communities and have more diverse voices in their decision-making process. Here are three insights from leaders, shared during the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s 10th Annual Building Resilience Through Private-Public Partnerships conference, on how to build resilience through advancing equity.

Equity Impacts Everyone and Every Aspect of Society

Equity isn't being diverse for the sake of diversity; it's a way to get more voices heard to create a more informed society. To do so, thought leaders from different backgrounds need to get together and lead.

“When we think about vulnerability, when we think about the ways in which disasters or catastrophic events can impact us, we should recognize that that actually means to all of us,” said Nicolette Louissaint, executive director and president of Healthcare Ready. “When we're thinking about equity, it is not about us versus them.”

“Every part of our society and all of the strategies that we roll out will have to be equitable if we are going to make it through this generation and all of the challenges that we think are going to face us in the near future,” Louissaint added.

To Create More Equitable Solutions, We Must Address Vulnerabilities

As senior manager of community resilience for Walmart, Brooks Nelson evaluates the barriers to equity through all lenses. In order for Nelson and his team to respond to disasters and community issues, they have to look at every factor to know what resources are needed and how to provide them, then address the barriers that are in the way of doing so.

They recently applied this approach when addressing the COVID-19 surge in India.

“We look at vulnerabilities within the community,” said Nelson. “Using that equity lens, we worked very closely with our partners, AmeriCares and International Medical Corps [and] with Doctors For You to ensure that where those supplies were being placed was being done in an equitable way. [We were] really thinking about rural populations and health disparities and where we are in the hospitals that we were selecting.”

Partnering With Underserved Communities Will Help Leaders Advance Equity

Dr. Sylvia Bartley, senior global director of the Medtronic Foundation, applies an equitable lens to all their partners with whom they do business. At least 50% of the organization’s nonprofit partners are diverse and focus on serving the most vulnerable, underserved populations through any type of disaster through their programming. It's through this perspective that they partner with communities to learn how to better serve them.

“These communities have lots of information, lots of treasures, lots of skills, lots of knowledge,” Dr. Bartley said. “We should partner with them from the very beginning and really help deliver our strategies and our focus on helping to eliminate disparities, particularly when it comes to disaster response.”

“[Our biggest challenge is] really working outside of our comfort zone and just doing the work that it will take to work with these organizations and help them build capacity and do what they need to do to work in their communities,” she added.