Over the past several months, America’s business leaders have been taken to task in responding to some of the most significant events in our nation’s history: a global pandemic that has killed more than 100,000 Americans, an ensuing economic recession that has driven unemployment to unprecedented levels, and a sudden, urgent call from the American people to reckon with systemic racism across all facets of our society following the brutal killing of George Floyd.
CEOs are leading their companies through uncharted waters. And as part of our ongoing Quarterly JUST Call series – where we’ve previously explored the interconnections between driving stakeholder and shareholder value with the CEOs of PayPal, HPE, and Akamai – we were joined by Intel CEO Bob Swan to discuss what he and his company are doing to address the most critical issues of our time.
Swan initially sat down with Andrew Ross Sorkin on CNBC’s Squawk Box for a close look at how Intel has led on issues of diversity and inclusion, and then joined JUST CEO Martin Whittaker and Managing Director of Corporate Engagement Yusuf George for an in-depth discussion of Intel’s consistent leadership in our Rankings, and how the company is taking action today.
Watch the full talk here, and dig into our top six takeaways below:
1. Truth and transparency are key.
Intel has consistently been a leader in the JUST Capital Rankings (#4 in 2020), in large part thanks to its exceptional transparency on a wide range of issues – from workforce demographics to environmental impact.
“We embrace truth and transparency,” explained Swan, “We set metrics, we manage them internally, we report them – not only to show the progress that we’re making, but also to hold ourselves accountable.”
Today, this approach to transparency matters more than ever before. In the midst of great uncertainty around the current health crisis, recession, and reckoning with systemic racism, companies have an opportunity to lead and drive change – as well as the chance to tell the public where they stand. In our recent survey with The Harris Poll, 89% of Americans told us they see this moment as an opportunity for large companies to hit “reset” and focus on doing right by their workers, customers, communities, and the environment.
Intel’s approach to transparency is a standout example for fellow corporate leaders looking to undertake this “reset,” and hold themselves publicly accountable to continued progress.
2. Business needs to play a more active role in what’s happening across society.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Intel took swift action. In addition to ensuring that employees were safe and had access to paid leave, the company committed $50 million toward creating pandemic response technology – accelerating access to patient care technology, speeding scientific research, and ensuring access to online learning for students. Additionally, the company donated more than 1 million articles of PPE from its emergency supplies to support healthcare workers on the frontlines.
In outlining his company’s response, Swan shared, “We had three priorities. First and foremost, the safety and well-being of our employees; second, to ensure we’re delivering for our customers at a time when the demand for our products was required more than ever; and then third, to make sure that in the midst of the crisis that we’re helping our communities.”
Intel’s response exemplifies how companies can and should double down on their stakeholder commitments, even in a time of crisis. “We need to play a more active role on the things that are happening in the society around us,” Swan emphasized. “In times of crisis, it’s time to lean into the things that are increasingly important rather than pull back.”
3. Disclosure on diversity and inclusion is step one in tackling systemic inequality.
In 2018, Intel announced that it had reached its goal of full representation, two years ahead of its 2020 target, meaning that its workforce now reflects the percent of women and underrepresented minorities in the U.S. labor market. And just last December, Intel became the only company we evaluate that fully discloses wage data for its workforce by gender, race, and ethnicity.
We asked Swan how Intel came to be such a standout leader in this area, and he shared that it came down to the company’s clear sense of purpose: “Our purpose as a company is to create world-changing technology that enriches the lives of every person on Earth. What that means is that we need to have a workforce that represents every person on Earth.”
In the midst of recent calls to address systemic racism in the workplace, this level of disclosure is one critical step, among many, that all companies can take to help drive change for BIPOC.
4. Working together drives bigger impact.
Throughout our conversation, Swan continually drove home the importance of disclosure and action not only for Intel’s advancement and accountability, but for creating change across the tech sector in order to create maximum impact: “The more we’re working together with other players in the industry, the bigger the impact that we can have going forward.”
In May, Intel announced that it would create and implement a Global Inclusion Index, to push for full inclusion and accessibility across the entire tech sector, where diverse workforces have been historically lacking. By setting ambitious goals of its own, Intel has been able to share its learnings and rally its industry peers to address the most critical issues. In the coming year, this work will be vitally important.
5. Customers and employees are increasingly focused on the environment.
In addition to its leadership on diversity and inclusion, Intel has been a long-time proponent of environmental sustainability. In May, Intel announced that by 2030, it would aim to achieve net positive water use, 100% renewable power, zero total waste to landfill, and carbon-neutral computing – all ambitious goals. And on environmental issues, Intel has consistently outperformed industry peers in our Rankings:
Swan explained that, increasingly, the environment is “on the radar screen of our customers…And our employees are just much more conscious about the implications that large operations like us can have on the environment.”
6. Social responsibility is not a side show.
Intel’s stakeholder-driven approach to business is not new for the company, but Swan shared that he is seeing a growing interest from shareholders in discussing the needs of workers, customers, and shareholders. More and more, the conversation around social responsibility and business impacts is hand-in-hand:
“The beauty is these are not decoupled,” Swan explained. “So the interplay of the initiatives we set on a variety of constituents makes our social responsibility, goals, and objectives tightly coupled to how we operate the business. So they’re not a side show, they’re integral to what we do.”
Watch our full interview with Bob Swan below.