Chicago’s business community has a history of civic engagement,
yet some maps of Chicago do not seem to change.
Life expectancy, economic opportunity and other quality-of-life indicators plummet when one travels west or south of the Loop. Opportunities and outcomes in our city are still predicted far too well by zip code. And the events of 2020 — COVID-19, the killing of George Floyd and others, peaceful protests, violence and looting — have made these inequities and others, along with our City’s history of structural racism, more evident than ever.
The premise of the Corporate Coalition of Chicago is that to reduce inequities, employers must look further than the important philanthropic work they are already doing. We believe corporate leaders have a role to play in creating opportunities in all neighborhoods, and to create such opportunities, core business functions – for example talent acquisition, employee advancement, purchasing of goods and services, and site location – must be involved. For transformational change in our neighborhoods, participants will need to look internally to identify how they and their firms can change.
The mission of the Corporate Coalition is to significantly reduce
the severe inequities in the Chicago region.
With an initial focus on Chicago’s South and West sides, Coalition participants are working, with community input, to create more healing-centered workplaces to tap into the incredible talent in our city, bringing much needed diversity to how corporations purchase goods and services, bringing more diversity to the thriving professional service sector, and raising and investing capital on the south and west sides to support critical community initiatives in Chicago.
A more coordinated and purposeful approach that recognizes the central role of Chicago’s business community – through business strategy and operations, in addition to the critical roles of philanthropy and community engagement – is needed. Now is the time to build such an approach.
Chicago’s Mayor is deeply committed to the vitality of the South and West Sides (learn about Invest South/West), and to working with the business community. Cook County’s President has been a leader in developing policies through an equity lens. Recent research has documented the important role of private investments in underserved neighborhoods, and the Business Roundtable has updated its principles of the corporation, challenging business to work for the benefit of all stakeholders.
The events of 2020 have highlighted both the importance and urgency of this work. The communities most impacted by COVID-19 and structural racism are precisely those the Coalition is working to support.
Until the underlying inequities are addressed, the impact of COVID-19 and other external shocks will continue to be felt disproportionately in these neighborhoods.
The members of the Corporate Coalition are committed to changing that reality. We believe that we can build an equitable and thriving region – a city that works for everyone – if we are willing to re-examine what we do and how we do it…and do it differently, in ways that will support our communities, our business, and our city.
What makes this effort distinctive?
Chicago is blessed with many business-led organizations committed to the vitality of our region and its people. The Corporate Coalition aims to be distinctive in this rich context by:
- Focusing specifically on economic inequities
- Leveraging the networks and capabilities of anchor non-profit partners such as the CBO Collaborative, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Metro Chicago, and World Business Chicago.
- Amplifying the work of policy makers, with a focus on action-oriented, tangible change in the neighborhoods where employees live,
- A commitment by participants to use (and where necessary, change) core business activities in pursuit of the overall goals. In addition to, but beyond the critical role of philanthropy, Coalition participants are focused on how businesses can invest, operate, and harness their employees’ enthusiasm.
Individual firms in Chicago can and do use their business activities to address inequities. The Coalition aims to be distinctive by focusing on initiatives where, working together, a greater impact is possible than when firms work alone.