The senseless deaths of Black Americans propelled conversations about race and equity to the forefront. Our Employee Resource Groups banded together to provide programming that educated on and amplified the importance of equity and social justice while UNIFI, Altria’s Black Employee Network, partnered with management to understand and improve the Black employee experience through courageous conversations and focus groups. Our executive leadership was committed to taking significant steps to drive long-lasting change. In a memo to the organization, our Chief Executive Officer, Billy Gifford, shared the following:
"For years we've been clear that Inclusion & Diversity is both a moral and a business imperative, and that it must be a focus for all employees at all Altria companies — not just those who believe they are personally affected by it. This is not about advancing a political agenda or mounting a feel-good campaign. This is about creating an environment where all employees can thrive, contribute their best and realize their full potential. Unfortunately, many of our Black colleagues feel they are unable to do so today. They're hurting deeply, facing violence and systemic racism in our communities and feeling disempowered and isolated at work.
While we can't change society overnight, we owe it to our Black colleagues to do our part, within all our companies. This requires intentionality and focus, and it requires ALL of us. We have a shared responsibility to make our companies better and more inclusive places to work. We have important and difficult work ahead of us, and many of us are excited and ready to drive change. Let's do this together.
To make progress against our workplace cultural aspiration for inclusion, diversity and equity without acknowledging the significant calls to action for racial equity in our society would have been a disservice to our employees and stakeholders. The national dialogue surrounding race and equity prompted a swift examination of our opportunities to positively contribute in our communities and live our enterprise values outside our four walls."
We also recognize that we have much to learn from others. We are committed to listening and learning from outside experts and others committed to advancing Inclusion, Diversity & Equity (ID&E), and then translating that learning into action. Our CEO has joined three external communities and made specific commitments to advance our ID&E policies and practices: Catalyst CEO Champions for Change, CEO Action for Racial Equity Fellowship and The Valuable 500.