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A memo from SAP outlined the tech giant's plan to address racial inequality in its own ranks — and it shows how companies can take meaningful actions beyond sending an email or a tweet

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  • DJ Paoni, North America president at SAP, sent a memo to employees that addressed the death of George Floyd and other victims of police brutality in the US. 
  • In the internal memo that SAP sent to Business Insider, Paoni outlined the exact initiatives the company will take so that employees can have an "active role in the conversation" surrounding racial inequality. 
  • He wrote that SAP will hold a series of events where employees can share personal experiences, talk about the impacts of collective grief, and learn how the coronavirus pandemic is disproportionately impacting minorities.  
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SAP North America president DJ Paoni sent a memo to employees on May 31 addressing the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by Minneapolis police during arrest on May 25, and the subsequent protests that have erupted across dozens of US cities.
Protestors spoke out against police brutality that disproportionately targets black people, and shed light on how the coronavirus pandemic and resulting job losses hit impoverished black and brown communities harder than wealthy white ones.
Many companies, including Amazon, Nike, and Apple, sent statements to employees that acknowledged the social unrest and stood in solidarity with their black employees. But some criticized companies for paying lip service to racism with a single tweet or statement, while continuing to sell products that exacerbate inequality. 
Software giant SAP, though, outlined an action plan to continue the conversation on racism. The company shared with Business Insider the internal memo it sent to employees.
"This is not an issue that can be addressed in one note, or in one conversation," Paoni wrote in the internal memo to employees. "Please know that I am committed to ensuring that our employees' voices are heard, that our conversations evolve into tangible action."
Paoni called the killings of Floyd and other victims of police brutality "unconscionable" and said they shed a spotlight on the history of systemic injustices that "some in our SAP community have experienced first-hand."
Paoni then outlined initiatives SAP is creating to ensure employees can "have an active role in the conversation":
  • SAP will hold a North America Town Hall where employees will share experiences and acknowledge "collective grief."
  • SAP will host a three-week series led by a Harvard University professor of African American Studies that will shed light on how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting communities of color.
  • Paoni will work with chief diversity and inclusion officer Judith Williams to find solutions SAP employees are "uniquely positioned to solve."
Williams, in a statement to Business Insider, said SAP employees will "take action" in the long-term to address societal issues. In the short-term, though, leaders must address employee's grief and start a discussion. 
"Employees want and need to hear from their leaders during times like these," Williams said. "Today's leaders need to be vocal in their support, they need to communicate thoughtfully even though they may not have all the answers, and they need to make time for discussion." 
Paoni understands that companies must have conversations around racism internally. His note acknowledged that systemic racism "isn't a new problem" in the US and provided a clear action plan for employees to become better allies, especially for black colleagues. The town hall gives employees an opportunity to mourn and the three-week series event allows them to better understand the ramifications of both COVID-19 and police brutality experienced by minorities.
SAP has also taken steps to raise money for the coronavirus response. The company tapped into his extensive client network with over 440,000 businesses in 180 countries to create a more than $3 million COVID-19 emergency fund. The company announced on April 2 that the money will go toward supporting the World Health Organization, the CDC Foundation, and nonprofits serving local communities.
SAP has also responded to the novel coronavirus by slowing hiring, cutting spending, making emergency succession, and extending crisis leave for employees. The company reported a solid start in 2020 despite the pandemic with a 7% rise in total revenue as of April 21.

Here's the full letter Paoni sent to SAP's North America employees

Dear North America colleagues,
I have struggled to find the right words to write to you following what has been a deeply emotional, painful, and cathartic several days. Over the last few weeks, the United States has been rocked by the unconscionable killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, creating reverberations in cities across the nation and around the world. And as we experience a pandemic that is disproportionately affecting the Black community, this moment in our history feels particularly poignant.
This is an incredibly difficult and sensitive time for many, and I humbly acknowledge that I can never fully comprehend what a profoundly challenging experience this is for our Black employees. I also recognize that while the current environment has captured the media's attention over the last several days, it should not negate the fact that this is not a new problem. These recent, senseless acts have shined a spotlight on the continued social and systemic injustices we have seen too many times in both our distant and recent history, and unfortunately that some in our SAP community have experienced first-hand.
I am a firm believer that those of us who are fortunate to work at a place like SAP bear special responsibilities to help create the world we want to live in.
At this moment, there are those in our SAP family who are understandably in need of acknowledgement, empathy, and compassion. There are also many of us who need constructive action – who want to understand the opportunities and resources available through our organization to drive change. Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Judith Williams to evaluate how we can address the issues our company I am actively working alongside our Chief and our people are uniquely positioned to solve.
As we collectively reflect on these events and seek ways to take action, we are creating several ways for employees to have an active role in the conversation. This will begin this week with a Town Hall where we invite employees who want or need a space to come together, acknowledge our collective grief, and share our experiences. The conversation will continue with a three-week series "Stress and Communities of Color in the time of Pandemic" led by Dr. David A. Williams, Professor of African American Studies at Harvard University and Chair of the Department of Social & Behavioral Sciences at Harvard's School of Public Health. Look out for more details on both of these initiatives this week.
We have a lot of work to do and a long road ahead of us, and it's essential that we all work together. This is not an issue that can be addressed in one note, or in one conversation. Please know that I am committed to ensuring that our employees' voices are heard, that our conversations evolve into tangible action, and that SAP shows up with our ideas, creativity, and compassion to make a difference, together.
With you,
DJ, President, SAP North America
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* This article was originally published here
http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/businessinsider/warroom/~3/JgJbgOxTsbs/sap-memo-outlined-companys-plan-to-address-racial-inequality-2020-6
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