Following nationwide unrest and ongoing protests in cities across the United States, utilities and industry stakeholder organization Edison Electric Institute (EEI) have issued statements reinforcing their commitments to Black employees and communities while furthering diversity and inclusivity initiatives.
“It’s most important for us to support our employees of color, especially our Black employees at this time, by standing united with them—against intolerance, discrimination and racism. We want to be part of the solution to heal our community and use this tragedy as an opportunity to strengthen our resolve,” said a spokesperson for Xcel Energy on June 3.
Last week, Xcel’s CEO Ben Fowke joined more than 50 executives in co-signing a letter released by Children’s Minnesota, stating their commitment to “stand united against acts of racism.”
In addition to reinforcing support of black communities, some also called on the industry to ramp up organizational and community initiatives that target racial intolerance and injustice. In his June 2 statement, EEI President Tom Kuhn said, “While we have made great progress in advancing diversity and inclusion within our industry, we recognize that we can—and we must—do more.”
Xcel’s spokesperson echoed this sentiment, stating the company is “committed as a company to find ways we can do more to help our employees and communities heal, recover and grow.” He continued, “Our leadership team is working to have direct and courageous conversations with employees about these issues and find solutions on which we can act.”
Some might wonder what kinds of specific actions would result in impactful change. On May 28, Exelon CEO Chris Crane sent a letter to employees, stating that “Supporting, encouraging and engaging everyone in our company — no matter their gender, color of their skin, sexual orientation, disability, religion, point of view or other unique qualities — are actions we must take every day. While social distancing separates us, this is not a time to be passive, but a time to reach out to colleagues, engage in a dialogue, make sure they're okay and their voices are heard.”
Xcel echoed its commitment to investigating and improving its internal policies and organizational practices. “We will continue supporting and developing a diverse workforce that reflects the communities and customers we serve by reviewing our current processes and ensuring we are meeting those commitments.”
A representative from ComEd stated that the utility cultivates an environment of diversity and inclusivity through providing educational resources, such as webinars, and through managing listening sessions that create "safe spaces to discuss nuances and sensitivities around race and culture."
"(ComEd) creates and updates policies to hold leaders and employees accountable. We hold leadership accountable for helping our organization function more effectively through inclusive behaviors and diversity of talent, experience and background. Those core values and policies include embracing a culture in which all of our talent feels engaged and respected." She continued, "We do this to ensure each employee plays an important role in making diversity and inclusivity real, sustainable and measurable."