raceAhead: Fortune’s Change the World List

Today, Fortune releases its fourth annual Change the World list, which highlights more than fifty companies that are doing well by doing good. You can see the full list here. Trust me, it will give you hope for the future.

Just the top ten offers a fascinating mash-up of industries and world-changing strategies. At number one is telecommunications giant Reliance Jio, who made the top spot for radically expanding access to the internet for rural and low-income customers in India. Bank of America (No. 3) has been fueling the green economy by financing low-carbon businesses; and Weight Watchers International (No. 9) built a $1.3 billion business tackling obesity in a sustainable, dignified and healthy way.

The companies were chosen with help from our partners at the Shared Value Initiative based on measurable social impact, business results, and degree of innovation, so it’s not just a feel-good exercise. The commitment it takes from senior executives to incorporate these impacts – environment, poverty alleviation, conservation, whatever it may be – into their core businesses is significant. Bobbi Silten, the managing director of the Shared Value Initiative breaks it down this way:

What you don’t always see in the stories of this year’s Change the World companies is the hard work that goes into making the change. When a company commits to delivering shared value, it has to be ready to reflect on its purpose and strategies, its practices, and how it engages and deploys its people to make this shift. Sometimes colleagues think you’re just trying to “do good,” and don’t see the business value, but you can’t give up. Other times there is great enthusiasm, but the resources are still tied up in the old way of doing things, so you have to find seed resources to get the idea off the ground.

Oftentimes you will need to find new metrics and ways to measure them to know if the effort is actually delivering results to society and business. You’ll want metrics to show your shareholders, too. Usually you’re working to build internal knowledge, capacity and buy-in, as well as that of external partners, because you are trying something that’s never been tried before. One thing proves true every time: Achieving shared value is less difficult when enlightened and committed leaders champion the work, shift the organization’s mindset, and tolerate the inevitable mistakes and missteps, while never losing sight of what’s possible.

So, if you find your company on this list and it makes you hopeful, feel free forward it along with a note to your CEO and let them know. If not, send along the list anyway and tell the big boss you believe you’ve all got what it takes. As Fortune Editor-in-Chief Clifton Leaf says so eloquently, this is “about solving problems through the only sustainable and scalable problem-solving machine we know of: business.”

Let’s get to work.


On Point

Crazy Rich Asians rakes it inThe film dominated the domestic box office this weekend, with an estimated $25.2 million debut, and a five-day launch of $36 million, making it the best outing for a romantic comedy in three years. According to Warners and comScore, the Asian community came out in droves, comprising some 38% of ticket buyers. (It was a diversity win all around; some 59% of movie-goers were Asian, black or Hispanic.) The Hollywood Reporter has an excellent breakdown of the success of the film, the first primarily Asian blockbuster since The Joy Luck Club of yesteryear. But if you want to get a better sense of why representation matters, click here for an opinion piece from writer Jenny Han, who recently brought an adaptation of her young adult novel to Netflix and fought to keep the lead character Asian American, as written. “There is power in seeing a face that looks like yours do something, be someone. There is power in moving from the sidelines to the center,” she says.Hollywood Reporter

The annual Hajj pilgrimage begins
More than two million Muslims from around the world are taking part in this year’s Hajj pilgrimage, recreating the final pilgrimage of the Prophet Muhammad in 632. Al Jazeera has some extraordinary photos of this year’s event. Click below for an essay from Zara Mohammed, a British woman, who reflects on her first-ever pilgrimage last year. She recalls the heat, the crush of humanity, the conditions, and the joy and difficulties of being Muslim in a complex world. “For me, the journey of Hajj brought to life many home truths. I recall so many lectures before taking the trip on the nature of sacrifice and bearing the struggle with patience,” she writes. “What I did not anticipate was the manner in which these tests would manifest and how my already very comfortable self would regularly wake up to some uncomfortable realities.”
The Independent

Ben Carson has lost the home team
There was a time when Dr. Ben Carson was a role model for aspiring young people in Baltimore, a visible reminder that if you’re lucky, hard work, resilience and grit can bring outsized success. But that was before, says Alicia Freeman, the principal of Archbishop Borders School in Baltimore, who just removed a portrait of Carson wearing surgical scrubs. “He was starting to become offensive,” she said. Carson had been an icon in Baltimore, but his work in politics – first, ignoring the president’s embrace of white supremacy and now espousing policies that eliminate civil rights protections for black and brown low-income voters, has soured the city that once claimed him as a hero.“Sometimes I think the country looks down on us,” said one Baltimore adult who learned about Carson during African American History Month in school. “So to have such a brilliant person who’s making history and making these great medical advancements in Baltimore? He was our crown jewel, and he was here.”
AP News

Here’s a good use for high tech robotics: rape kit testing
Across the country, there are hundreds of thousands of rape kits sitting in a room somewhere, waiting for a test that could bring peace to a victim and justice to an often serial offender. This story explains partly why the problem is so severe and then offers a tip of the hat to the state of Ohio. The crime lab did a week-long hackathon and modernized their methodology by embracing kaizen, a Japanese productivity methodology. They also invested in new robotics, which saves scientists from repetitive tasks. The improvements allowed the state to process 14,000 untested kits which had been languishing since 2011, and identify some 300 serial offenders linked to 1,110 assaults.


The Woke Leader

Where is the diversity in AI?
If you think rape kit testing is a smart use of high tech that was long overdue, then the lack of gender diversity in artificial intelligence and related fields should alarm you. According to this piece from Wired, only 12% of people working in the field that’s poised to transform our lives are women, and nobody interviewed expected the diversity ratios to improve. Though researchers have not yet broken down the diversity stats by race, they’re smart enough to be aware that the issue is widespread and serious. Diversity recruitment initiatives at high tech firms have barely budged the numbers - white and Asian men still outnumber everyone else – and when others are hired on, they don’t tend to stay. “Working to have good representation of women and minorities is positive, but we also want them to be able to advance,” says one diversity advocate.

The racial tension in feminism
Writer Rachel Elizabeth Cargle tells a difficult but necessary story in this important piece about racial dynamics among feminists. It started with a simple online call to action. Cargle asked her network, and her white feminists followers specifically, to use their platforms to elevate the story of 18-year-old Nia Wilson who was stabbed to death in Oakland last month. The goal was to make sure Wilson got the same media attention as when white women are killed. While many did just that, other women reacted badly. “There were grand displays of defensiveness, demands that they be acknowledged for all the things they had done for black people in the past, and a terrifying lashing out that included racial slurs and doxing,” she says. In the detailed analysis that follows, she explores “white fragility” as it plays out in feminist circles, and issues a call to do better.
Harper's Bazaar

When we examine the pipeline for tech leadership talent, Asian Americans aren’t there
“Asian Americans are the forgotten minority in the glass ceiling conversation,” says Buck Gee and Denise Peck, two former Silicon Valley executives in this must-read piece from HBR. In fact, they found, they may not even be counted in corporate diversity reports.  In one recent report from a major tech firm, “Asian men are lumped into a ‘non-underrepresented’ category with white men…Asian women are assigned to a category that includes women of all races.” Pouring through EEOC data, the two found that while Asian American professionals in the U.S. were more likely to be hired, they were less likely to be promoted into management roles than any other race.


Mother [was] hyper-sensitive, suicidal. Father [was] honest, cheerful, a leader in the community, very Christian...What I didn't realize was that I was also getting these two different senses of the culture. The one [of my mother], which included a lot of bad things determined by fate or bad luck or ghosts or karma, and the one of my father that was dictated by God through prayer... So I grew up with these two different versions of fate. And I would say that at a certain age I would prefer, of course, the Christian one that wasn't full of bad things. In my mother's world, fate also had to do with curses and you feel kind of helpless when there's a curse going on in your life.
Amy Tan

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