Dave Ricks, CEO of Eli Lilly & Co speaks at the companies annual Day of Solidarity event.

Transparency and Accountability: Lessons Learned from Eli Lilly’s Racial Justice Report

The events of 2020 led to more corporations making statements and promises around social and racial justice than any other time in history. But it didn’t take long for those efforts to ring hollow with a public that is increasingly skeptical and expectant of corporate America to play a role in pushing progress.

Data lays bare the reality of consumer sentiments about corporations and their racial equity obligation. A survey by the market research firm Ipsos found that 81% of consumers in the U.S. believe brands have a role to play in addressing racial injustice, and 65% said that they would stop buying from a brand that doesn’t take a stand on racial injustice.

In a survey conducted by the consulting firm Accenture (No. 1 on DiversityInc’s 2022 Top 50 Companies for Diversity list), 41% of consumers said they would pay more for products and services from companies that are committed to racial equality.

As public scrutiny intensified, the question quickly became a matter of where is the transparency? And who, if anyone, is going to assume accountability for these promises?

Some companies, however, listened to the sentiment of both the public and their people, putting accountability measures in place. Eli Lilly and Co. (No. 5 on DiversityInc’s 2022 Top 50 Companies for Diversity list) is one of them. The pharma giant has not only set ambitious goals but tracked progress and reported on them on publicly. Its most recent Racial Justice Progress Report titled “Lilly’s Racial Justice Commitment: From Pledge to Progress” is evidence of that.

The report outlines the company’s progress across five key areas it identified in 2020. These include:

  • People development
  • Family sustaining jobs
  • Health equity
  • Social impact
  • Diversity partners

At the outset, leadership committed to “decreasing the burden of racial injustice” by pledging $25 million and 25,000 volunteer hours over a five-year span. The targeted volunteer hours have already been surpassed and the company has tripled its spending with Black vendors and suppliers.

A key to the speedy progress Lilly has made has been the accountability measures the company put in place and a commitment to both internal and external transparency. The accountability piece began with creating a new position, Head of Lilly’s Racial Justice Commitment. That post has been filled by Terry Morris and involves leading the racial justice strategy.

That was followed by the establishment of a cross-organization Racial Justice Steering committee which is co-chaired by the Executive Vice President for HR and the EVP for Corporate Affairs and Communications. The mission of the steering committee is to advance racial justice for Black and marginalized Americans with “speed and purpose.”

Responsibility for progress is embedded into individual performance plans at all levels in key areas like supplier diversity and talent acquisition. Training and learning opportunities are an important component in creating an understanding and buy-in of company strategy and goals.

There are some ongoing challenges that must be navigated, as with any effort to create meaningful change. For example, the company’s commitment to the supplier diversity initiatives in the pledge has to be consistently renewed. If commitment or focus wanes, so does the program.

“DEI is a journey, not a destination – and similarly, so is our racial justice work,” Kelly Copes-Anderson, Global Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Lilly said. “Our work to increase the number of Black Business Enterprises we engage with starts over at zero every year with the contracting cycle. The commitment and diligence required to meet these goals must never wane.”

Another challenge will be the expansion of these efforts. Thus far, Lilly’s Racial Justice Commitment efforts have primarily been focused on addressing the issues Black Americans face. Now, the company is looking at opportunities to expand the work to other marginalized communities, in particular the Latinx community.

While the progress report itself and the continued renewal of their commitments are examples of external transparency, internally, leaders of the initiative had to figure out how to report progress to executives. They developed a Racial Justice Scorecard with metrics that indicate success, such as spend with local charities and startups in the Indianapolis area, recruitment of apprentices from underrepresented groups and the number of executives who have completed supplier diversity training, to name a few. These measures are tracked over the five-year commitment timeframe and shared regularly with the CEO and Executive Committee.

Family Sustaining Jobs

In the aftermath of the 2008 recession, it was common to hear about creating jobs. The success of presidencies and governorships can be tied to job creation, and much of the national view of the economy centers on conversations about jobs. But in that conversation, not much context is set in place around the sustainability of those jobs, the growth opportunities they offer or whether someone can support a healthy lifestyle, never mind a family on the wages that it pays.

The term “family sustaining jobs” has been growing in use, particularly since the creation of the OneTen Project, a coalition of companies with a goal to upskill, hire and promote one million Black Americans in ten years into family sustaining jobs that provide opportunities for advancement.

Lilly joined OneTen and began moving towards a skills-first approach to hiring and development for certain positions.

According to OneTen, family sustaining jobs meet four standards:

  • Pay family sustaining wages. This varies based on the cost of living in each city, but generally means the compensation covers the basic needs for a family. Calculate the family sustaining wage in your area with the MIT Living Wage calculator.
  • Accessible. These jobs do not require a four-year college degree for a candidate to perform successfully. An estimated 4 million jobs today can be re-credentialed to remove the requirement for a college degree.
  • Opportunities for advancement. These jobs are eligible for promotion, parallel education and have a pathway to more senior positions within the company.
  • Attractive. These jobs have a relatively low risk of being automated, informed by a 2013 study from Oxford, allowing a longer-term career to develop.

Lilly’s Skills First program is an effort to provide candidates without four-year college degrees, including Black Americans and other historically marginalized groups, greater access to roles at the company they may not have had through traditional recruiting methods.

Since 2020, more than 70 individuals from underrepresented groups have participated in apprenticeship programs that prepare them for full-time positions at Lilly in a variety of areas, including information technology, human resources, clinical research and development, business operations, and manufacturing. The apprenticeships range from 13 to 24 months.

“We have also added various wrap around services to address barriers to participation,” Copes-Anderson said. “As a global pharmaceutical company, we value robust education, especially in STEM areas, which are critical to innovation. However, we recognize that there are a multitude of different skill sets that enable us to fulfill our purpose to develop medicines that make life better for people. In the last couple years, we challenged ourselves to think differently – recognizing that the four-year degree as a default isn’t always necessary for many jobs at Lilly.”

Recently, Lilly announced an upskilling collaboration with the Be Nimble Foundation, a 501(c)(3) social enterprise creating fully diverse and inclusive tech ecosystems, to source talent within Lilly’s Skills First Program.

Commitment to Supplier Diversity

As noted in the report, Lilly has doubled its spend with Black suppliers and vendors as well as Black Business Enterprises in Indianapolis. While the impact has been significant for the community, the biggest impact has been on the company, according to Copes-Anderson.

“Every year we engage a third party to understand the number of jobs and economic impact our diversity supplier spending has on the community,” she said. “Generally, the economic impact is usually around two times the spend. So, for example, our $358 million in spending with Black Business Enterprises (BBE) equates to around $700 million of economic impact. While no doubt our work with Black Enterprises has benefited those individuals directly involved – the biggest impact has been on Lilly. Diversity is critical to innovation. We are a stronger company when there is greater diversity in the companies with whom we do business.  We are now committed to tripling our BBE spend by 2025.”

To read the full Racial Justice Progress Report, click here.

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