WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than 400 state and local chambers of commerce and associations have stepped up to formally join the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in its Equality of Opportunity Initiative, powering a nationwide effort to advance economic inclusion across our society through business leadership. The U.S. Chamber announced the national initiative to address inequality of opportunity last week, building on the organization’s work and expertise with a focus on reform in four issue areas: education, employment, entrepreneurship, and criminal justice.
“As our nation undertakes a necessary conversation about systemic racism, we will listen thoughtfully and lead solutions to help ensure Black Americans and people of color have greater opportunities to succeed in the American enterprise system,” said Suzanne P. Clark, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “We know what a job means to an individual, to a family and to a community. It means personal dignity, financial security, better health outcomes, opportunities to advance and grow, and hope for the future.”
The 426 organizations representing 47 states will join the U.S. Chamber’s Equality of Opportunity National Summit on June 25, which will explore some of the underlying challenges driving inequality of opportunity and chart a path to actionable, data-driven solutions. In addition, these state and local partners and industry associations have committed to hosting similar dialogues and taking action in their own communities and across their sectors to address inequality of opportunity.
The National Black Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Black Chambers, Inc., the National Business League, the Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce & Entrepreneurship, the U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation (USPAACC) are among the initiative’s nationwide partners (view full list).
“Working together with our federation of state and local chambers and association partners, we can better understand the challenges facing specific communities and help drive lasting solutions across the nation,” Clark added. “We will use our influence, expertise, and convening power to serve our country at a time when the leadership of the business community is needed more than ever. And we commit to ensuring that the impact of our work reaches more people.”
The U.S. Chamber also announced four new members to the initiative’s steering committee: Geoff Freeman, President and CEO, Consumer Brands Association; Bill Miller, President and CEO, American Gaming Association; Jim Rooney, President and CEO, Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce; and Maria Salinas, President and CEO, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.
They join previously announced steering committee members Glenn Hamer, President and CEO, Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry; John Harmon, Founder, President and CEO, African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey; Susan Neely, President and CEO, American Council of Life Insurers; Vincent B. Orange, Sr. President and CEO, DC Chamber of Commerce; Carlos Phillips, President and CEO, Greenville (SC) Chamber of Commerce; and Matt Shay, President and CEO, National Retail Federation.
The Equality of Opportunity initiative aligns with the Chamber’s mission and shared purpose to help businesses grow the economy and create jobs. The Chamber has championed this mission for more than 100 years—across generations and through some of the most significant challenges in our nation’s history.
This initiative is the latest in a series of activities the Chamber has done to promote a more just and equal society. Most recently, the U.S. Chamber sent a letter to members of Congress urging lawmakers to pass bipartisan police reforms before Labor Day. In addition, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is holding a three-part webinar series, It Matters, where participants will hear from industry leaders about why culture and inclusion are critical pillars to a productive workplace.
This work will build on and will be informed by the formal partnerships the Chamber has forged over the past several years with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the Minority Business Development Agency, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The Chamber has been proud to partner with these and other allies, including previous initiatives with the NAACP, to advance issues ranging from addressing youth unemployment to promoting diversity across all levels of business to supporting minority-owned enterprises to making the business case for closing the racial equity gap.
Additionally, the Chamber continues to lead efforts to remove barriers standing between people and opportunity. It championed the First Step Act, passed in 2018, to bring needed reforms to the criminal justice system and help formerly incarcerated individuals rebuild their lives through meaningful employment. Through specific initiatives, including the Talent Pipeline Management Initiative, the U.S. Chamber Foundation is driving solutions on workforce development, K-12 education reform, and expanding access to high-quality childcare and early childhood education—including addressing the disparities that exist across these issues for people and communities of color.
Clark concluded, “We are proud of the partnerships, the relationships, and the work we have done over the years to address barriers to opportunity. But much more work needs to be done. The business community must work together to advance equality of opportunity with greater emphasis and urgency than ever before.”