Nationwide CEO: I'll never know what it's like to be Black, but I know right from wrong

Katy Smith
Kirt Walker, CEO of Nationwide

In an unprecedented break from the routine avoidance of political issues, major brands across the country have pledged their commitment and their resources to fight racism in the wake of the killings of George Floyd and many other Black people by police.

In Columbus, some 750 organizations including the leaders of the city’s largest private sector companies signed a letter to City Council declaring racism a public health crisis. The group of supporters has grown beyond 3,000 and represents a major departure from the sideline sentiments of the past. With businesses putting themselves out there to advance racial justice and equality—supporting employees attending protests and wearing Black Lives Matter garb—many have asked: Now what are these large corporations going to actually do to create meaningful change?

Columbus CEO asked business leaders.

What does your organization plan to do to address systemic racism and inequality?

Kirt Walker, CEO, Nationwide: The past few weeks have been filled with significant emotion. The images we’ve seen shed a light on the opportunities before us. We’re determined to be a force for good and effect change, and we understand that actions speak louder than words.

For the July issue of Columbus CEO, we touched base with a number of business leaders on the topic of race. Here's what they had to say.

In addition to our longstanding partnerships with organizations like the National Urban League and National Fair Housing Alliance, we’re increasing community investments to combat racism and promote economic empowerment. We announced a new $1 million commitment to support local and national programs dedicated to fostering social justice.

Internally we established a social justice task force of associates across the company. We’re inviting civic leaders to engage in companywide “Catalyst for Change” conversations.

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While I admit I’ll never fully understand what it’s like to be a person of color, I know right from wrong. And I know that if any part of my team is impacted, it impacts us all. At its heart, that’s what our “On Your Side” slogan means. It means holding one another accountable when we see injustice. And it means listening to one another—not just to hear or be heard, but to understand and be understood.

Katy Smith is editor of Columbus CEO.