The following perspective was shared with Honda associates in the U.S. by the executives who co-chair the Honda North America Diversity Steering Committee.
This is a deeply painful time for our nation and the world. In the midst of the terrible crisis that is the COVID-19 pandemic, we witnessed the disturbing and tragic deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, and all that this represents with respect to longstanding and deeply rooted issues of racism and injustice within our society.
Finding the right words to share with the entire Honda team about these issues is not easy, but we have to try. As a company, we acknowledge that we don't have all the answers, nor are we in a position to preach to others. But whatever words we choose must translate into action, and we must do the right thing.
For people of color, particularly Black people, in our company and in the communities where we live and work, it is important we make clear that your lives matter and we must take deliberate action to support this expression, understanding that we have a long way to go in fulfilling our own commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Honda's values are grounded in human respect, and we stand with people everywhere united in the pursuit of racial equality and justice for all.
Our company philosophy is rooted in what we call our "Fundamental Beliefs," particularly our commitment to "Respect for the Individual." More than a half century ago, our founders didn't use the phrase "inclusion," but their insistence on encouraging "initiative, equality and mutual trust" has embodied this notion from the very beginning of our company – that every person should not only be afforded the respect they deserve, but also the opportunity to fulfill their life's potential.
To be a Honda associate, we must not only share these beliefs, we must make them the foundations of all that we do in the workplace. To put it more directly, if you don't believe in inclusion you are working for the wrong company.
Our founder, Soichiro Honda, was very clear in his view on the relationship between beliefs and actions when he said: "Action without philosophy is a lethal weapon; philosophy without action is worthless."
Today marks the moment when society must demonstrate its values in action and strengthen our commitment to fairness, justice and racial equality. The Black community has done all it can to demonstrate the need for change. As a society, we have stood too quietly for too long in the face of clear injustice and now must recognize that continuing to remain silent makes us part of the problem.
We acknowledge the pain felt by the Black community and by communities across America affected by systemic racism and discrimination. Together with our associates, suppliers, dealers and other partners in the community, we will work even harder to advocate and persist in seeking the inclusion and equity that makes us stronger as a nation, and as a company.
For those asking what that means, what we can do, and what you can do, the first step is to hold ourselves accountable; and, to that end, we are taking action:
- This week, members of Honda executive leadership are meeting with leaders of Honda's African-American Business Resource Groups (BRGs) to gain their perspectives on this challenge and their insights into appropriate actions we can take as a company. These actions will include working with our BRGs on an honest assessment of how we can better seek justice, fairness, inclusion and equity in our business and better support our Black associates and other diverse associates in their Honda careers. We commit to reporting back to you on what we find and what we will do to address the issues raised.
- We are asking leaders throughout our company to hold discussions with associates to better understand how people are feeling and what they believe Honda can and must do to more effectively address these issues. It is OK if these discussions make us a little uncomfortable because only by having honest discussions will we get to a better place.
- We have a longstanding partnership with the National Urban League in supporting their mission of economic justice and equality, and now we are exploring a deeper partnership and shared effort to help lift people up into better economic situations.
- We will continue to boost economic opportunity for women and minority-owned businesses. For the past five years, we have held an annual conference aimed specifically at increasing inclusion and diversity within our North American supplier network. We have worked with our Tier 1 suppliers to develop their own Supplier Diversity Programs with specific spending targets for minority business. This deliberate effort has pushed our annual purchases from women and minority-owned businesses to over $3.2 billion annually, but we must increase the urgency of these economic empowerment business activities.
- We will reassess our policies and reporting procedures on discrimination in the workplace in the spirit of a "Zero Tolerance Policy" with additional resources should an associate experience discrimination in the workplace.
- Education is a tide that lifts all boats. So we will increase the intensity of our longstanding efforts to support Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), through the Honda Campus All Star Challenge, Honda Battle of the Bands, and our partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. We will reassess our support of these programs to ensure they are resulting in meaningful opportunities for HBCU students, including the recruitment and hiring as new Honda associates.
- We recognize that our leadership is not where it should be in terms of diversity. In a time of rapid technological change and shifting customer demographics, we are committed to ensuring the promotion of diverse leadership to help us meet these challenges.
The outrage over the inequality in society comes against the backdrop of a Black community that has born a disproportionate burden in health outcomes and the economic turmoil that is a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to public health officials, the higher incidence of COVID-19 among minorities is the result of public and social policy decisions that have left them more susceptible to infection and its worst complications.
Especially now, our actions can make a difference. After the worst of the pandemic is over and the protests subside, we must remain vigilant and do our part to build toward justice and equality for all people.
There have been problems in the past and some may ask "what is different now?" This is an extraordinary moment born out of an incredibly tragic one. The leadership of Honda is actively engaged. In turn, we are engaging with associates. We want to hear from you.
If you have concerns about what we are expressing, would like to know more about the actions we are taking, or would like to discuss the issues and events you have seen and heard across America, we encourage you to speak up. Your voice matters. We are listening, and we will do our best to address your concerns.
Thank you for everything you are doing to support our customers, our communities, and each other.
Executive Vice President
Deputy Chair, Honda Diversity Steering Committee
American Honda Motor Co., Inc.
Honda North America, Inc.
Senior Vice President & General Counsel
Deputy Chair, Honda Diversity Steering Committee
Honda North America, Inc.