Can Businesses Help Battle Discrimination?

A new report from the Public Affairs Council indicates that roughly three-quarters of Americans think racial discrimination is a serious problem, with other forms of discrimination also are widely concerning for the public. The report ponders whether companies can make an impact on solving these problems.

Corporate responsibility is increasingly in style, especially on issues of discrimination. But how does the public take to those trends?

According to a new report by the Public Affairs Council (PAC), it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Relatively small percentages of people think that businesses have played important roles in battling issues of discrimination against people with disabilities (34 percent) or based on gender (28 percent), race (27 percent), and sexual orientation (26 percent).

“Across all categories of discrimination, however, the most common response from the public is that corporate actions have made no difference at all,” the 2016 Public Affairs Pulse survey stated.

However, the survey—which found that 74 percent of respondents felt that racial discrimination was a serious issue, with gender identity not far behind at 67 percent—nonetheless highlighted the potential for businesses to have an impact through social issues moving forward. The study found that 69 percent of respondents would view efforts by businesses to battle discrimination against people with disabilities favorably, while more than half of respondents said the same about race (62 percent), age and gender (60 percent each), sexual orientation (56 percent), religion (55 percent), and gender identity (53 percent).

The survey also found that the issue is partly defined on political lines, with those who identify as Republican less likely than Democrats and Independents to be concerned about discrimination issues, with the gap tightest on the issue of religion—which 52 percent of Republicans see as serious, versus 70 percent of Democrats. The survey found that the results also varied by demographic factors.

Ultimately, though, the survey emphasized that “all categories of discrimination were ranked as serious by a majority of Americans.”

The report follows on the heels of another recent PAC report indicating that companies were increasingly more willing to speak out on divisive social issues, often joining coalitions to make their impact felt.

The full Public Affairs Pulse survey is available at the PAC website.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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