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Companies' diversity commitments at risk amid possible recession: study

TORONTO — A new report says that pledges made by companies to support diversity are at risk as the corporate sector prepares for a possible recession.
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A new report says as the corporate sector prepares for a possible recession, pledges made by companies to support diversity are at risk. A person walks though a downtown Toronto office building with other buildings reflected in a window in this June 11, 2019 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy

TORONTO — A new report says that pledges made by companies to support diversity are at risk as the corporate sector prepares for a possible recession.

The study by consulting company AgentsC and charitable organization Imagine Canada, supported by the RBC Foundation, says though Canadian corporations have committed billions of dollars to justice, access, inclusion, diversity and equity, these commitments haven't resulted in enough action and accountability. 

The research involved a survey of Canada's largest companies and included interviews with Black, Indigenous, South Asian, South Asian-Muslim, and LGBTQ professionals. 

AgentsC CEO Mide Akerewusi says the pace of change doesn't match the intentions broadcast by corporations' financial commitments. 

The study found that a lack of representation is holding back equity at corporations, noting that Black and Indigenous professionals are less likely than their white counterparts to have influence or decision-making responsibility. 

The study also found that among professionals interviewed, there's a feeling that companies are only spurred into action during a crisis, and corporate community investment feels like it's not a high priority within organizations. 

"At times, a lack of trust and accountability within corporate leadership can stifle momentum toward community investment," said Akerewusi in a press release Tuesday. 

"This is especially concerning as we enter uncertain economic times when commitments to strengthening communities in Canada could come to a jarring halt because of economic challenges that threaten a corporation’s accountability towards justice, access, inclusion, diversity, and equity."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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