Northwest Arkansas Council addresses systemic racism with leadership pledge; encourages support from businesses

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 1,395 views 

One of Northwest Arkansas’ most influential nonprofit groups released Wednesday (July 22) a wide-ranging pledge to address systemic racism and promote a “more equitable and inclusive” region.

The Northwest Arkansas Council, a group of community and business leaders, says organizations throughout the region are encouraged to adopt the “Northwest Arkansas Leadership Pledge” by publicly displaying the language inside their businesses and online. Organizations can sign on to support the pledge at this link.

The Council made the announcement in conjunction with EngageNWA, a council initiative encouraging diversity and inclusion.

“In the aftermath of the senseless killings of George Floyd and so many other Black lives throughout the country by law enforcement, the Council led discussions on how to work together to foster a more welcoming region,” Nelson Peacock, president and CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Council, said in a statement. “This pledge represents a commitment from Northwest Arkansas business, education, nonprofit and community leaders to take specific actions that will further those efforts.”

Tuesday’s announcement by the Northwest Arkansas Council included support from a number of business, education and nonprofit leaders, including Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon.

“We support locally what we are committed to globally – doing our part to achieve greater equity and justice for everyone,” McMillon said. “We appreciate how the Northwest Arkansas community is working toward growing closer and more united, that together we are confronting the corrosive power of racism in a way we have never done before, and that we are setting an even higher bar for ourselves to be more inclusive – not just accepting our region’s differences, but celebrating them, every day.”

The Council’s announcement named several organizations who support the pledge including Arvest Bank, Cushman & Wakefield | Sage Partners, Endeavor NWA, George’s Inc., Movista, Northwest Arkansas Chambers of Commerce, J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc., Simmons Foods, Tyson Foods, University of Arkansas, Walmart and the Walton Family Foundation.

“J.B. Hunt is proud to stand with other companies in Northwest Arkansas to condemn discrimination and promote an inclusive work environment,” said John Roberts, president and CEO at J.B Hunt. “The principles in this pledge are reflected in our culture that respects the individual and cultivates diversity to help us represent the broad cross-section of ideas, values and beliefs of our employees, contractors, customers, carriers and communities.”

The Northwest Arkansas Leadership Pledge is:

Diversity and inclusion are vital to the well-being and success of our employees, communities and businesses. We stand committed to fostering and expanding a more just, equitable and inclusive region for all by purposefully addressing systemic racism in the communities in which we operate. 

In pursuit of the objective of a diverse and inclusive community, we are committed to the following guiding principles:

Supporting educational initiatives designed to provide a deeper understanding of the historical underpinnings of systemic racism and help identify and eliminate unconscious bias. We will continue to make our workplaces safe environments for such education by fostering open, frank and respectful discussions about these complex issues.

Working to ensure that our workplace environments are free of discrimination and that we advance the hiring, development, retention and promotion of diverse talent and invest in initiatives designed to reduce the effects of prejudices in our communities at the local, regional and national level. 

Supporting administrative and legislative measures that advance equality and justice and further the acceptance and advancement of all individuals, regardless of personal demographics including race, gender, sexual orientation or religious beliefs. 

Engaging thoughtfully on the issues by listening to and learning from each other, promoting transparency by sharing practices that have worked and failed, and helping keep each other accountable by encouraging the continued enhancement and evolution of policies and strategies to help overcome challenges and improve well-being for all.

“Our nation’s history is written with painful passages of discrimination that created the disadvantages continuing to impact People of Color,” said Caryl M. Stern, Walton Family Foundation executive director. “This pledge represents a bold step to ensure growth in Northwest Arkansas is inclusive, and that opportunity is accessible to every member of our community.”

“We believe that all businesses stand to benefit when communities are built upon a culture of fairness, inclusion and diversity. Tyson is proud to support the pledge to address systemic racism in Northwest Arkansas and, in doing so, is committed to working tirelessly in the community we serve to eradicate social injustice,” said Noel White, CEO of Tyson Foods. “We commend the work of the Council as it is only by coming together, through listening, learning and doing, that we will move a step closer to creating the change this country deserves.”

“Northwest Arkansas Council members and businesses throughout our region have a clear recognition that we must do better regarding racial equity and justice for all,” said Todd Simmons, the CEO of Simmons Foods and the 2019-2020 presiding co-chair of the Northwest Arkansas Council. “The pledge is our commitment to do what’s necessary, but it’s the actions we take because of the pledge that will lead to positive changes across our region.”