USA TODAY International Edition
New Black Dollar Index ranks corporate America’s support
A new Black Dollar Index is ranking companies from Allstate to Walmart by their support of Black America.
“Think Better Business Bureau meets Consumer Reports for Black consumers,” said Kelle Rozell, a marketing director from Brooklyn, New York, who launched the consumer advocacy index with a small group of Black professionals Tuesday.
Increasingly impatient with the slow pace of progress in corporate America following the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, Rozell said she came up with the index to steer consumers looking to buy insurance policies and household staples to businesses committed to righting the nation’s long history of exclusion and discrimination, much the way The Green Book guided Black travelers to safety across North America.
The index, the first of its kind, builds on national boycotts and the “Buy Black” movement by helping consumers make more informed buying decisions, Rozell told USA TODAY in an exclusive interview.
“One of the things we wanted to do when we created this is we wanted to bring the consumer into this,” she said. “Let’s not make this something we do for a month. Let’s make this a longterm habit.”
Black spending power is on track to reach $ 1.8 trillion by 2024, according to Nielsen research. Much of that money is spent with white- owned companies, many of which have pledged to tackle racial injustice after Floyd, a Black man, died under the knee of a white police officer last year in Minneapolis.
Yet corporate America’s top ranks look nothing like the country they serve.
Only four current Fortune 500 CEOs are Black and only one is a woman. A USA TODAY analysis found that less than 2% of the senior most executives in America’s 50 largest companies are Black.
Some 8% of white- collar jobs and 3.2% of senior corporate positions are held by African Americans, according to the Center for Talent Innovation, a nonprofit group focused on workplace diversity.
“The Black Dollar Index is important work that sits at the intersection of racial and economic justice,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D- N. Y., said in a statement. “BDI will provide the necessary information to allow us to be better change agents for racial equity.”
After decades of economic disparity and a COVID- 19 pandemic- fueled
downturn that has devastated the Black community, Rozell wanted a way to measure promises of solidarity from corporations and to hold them accountable for their track record of hiring Black workers and executives, backing Black entrepreneurs and investing in the Black community.
A group of Black professionals from health care, consumer packaged goods, media, finance, politics, and consulting came together in weekly zoom meetings during the social unrest last summer to volunteer their time building The Black Dollar Initiative.
Soon, the Black Dollar Index was born. It weighs qualitative and quantitative factors to measure each company’s commitment to diversity and investments in causes important to Black Americans and score them from 0- 100.
Eighty percent of the score is determined by the representation of Black Americans in the workforce, on the senior leadership team, in management and on the board. The other 20% is derived from racial discrimination claims, significant investments in Black initiatives, the company’s supplier diversity program and diversity and inclusion efforts.
To date, the Black Dollar Index has rated more than 100 corporations in travel and hospitality, consumer goods, finance, technology and media, retail and food services. Dozens more are being added as more public information becomes available, Rozell said. Fourteen of the 105 companies, 13%, are “Black Dollar Approved.” They include Allstate, American Express, AT& T, Nike and Under Armour. The top- rated company is UPS.
Best Buy, Bank of America, Clorox, Netflix, Target, Verizon, Walmart and Wells Fargo are also approved and fall into the next tier, which is “fair.”
The lowest possible score – 0 – went to Trader Joe’s and Cheesecake Factory for providing too little public information on the racial and ethnic makeup of their workforce and other factors that are heavily weighted in the Black Dollar Index.
Rozell cautioned that the index is a work in progress and ratings can change as corporations open up.
“As Americans, we want racial justice,” she said. “As consumers, we want options.”