Chattanooga Chamber Launches CEO Pledge for Racial Equity, Invites Local Business Leaders to Make a Commitment

Chattanooga, Tennessee — The Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce is spearheading a CEO Pledge for Racial Equity, a commitment by regional CEOs and managing leaders to intentionally enhance efforts to achieve equity of opportunity within organizations and the broader Chattanooga community.

“In Chattanooga, a CEO Pledge for Racial Equity will grow business, drive accountability and increase innovation,” said Lorne Steedley, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusive Growth, Chattanooga Chamber. “Starting with an organizational assessment, CEOs and managing leaders can take a deeper dive to focus on talent, performance management, leadership development and workforce culture. The outcome of these efforts will yield internal and external performance recommendations. These recommendations will promote competitiveness, enhance geographic attractiveness and drive economic growth.”

The WK Kellogg Foundation, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup report that the economic cost of inequity to African Americans is reported to be billions of dollars per year. This directly impacts GDP, employment, lending, education and health. A more equitable economy makes the business case for the growth and full participation of African-Americans and other communities of color in Chattanooga and Hamilton County.

“In order for Chattanooga to become the best city in the country, we have to ensure that we build a city that works for all our residents, especially those whose fortunes have been held back by years of systemic racism,” said Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly.

“The persistent gaps in black and white outcomes in Chattanooga are not only unjust, but expensive. This issue is holding us back from economic progress. A people deprived of the opportunity to build wealth and advance are not only underachieving in what they can add to our collective wealth and stories of human capital, but we run the risk that they will eventually sink into hopelessness and despair. And that abandonment of hope tears at the social fabric that binds together our city’s families. We owe it to our neighbors, our businesses and our community to tackle the issue of racial equity because together we can accomplish so much more than we can apart,” Kelly said.

“This Pledge is about Chattanooga as a thriving community and location of opportunity and prosperity for all,” said Valoria Armstrong, Chamber Board Chair and American Water’s Chief Inclusion Officer and VP, External Affairs. “It supports talent retention, talent development and talent diversity, which are especially important in an environment that’s highly competitive for talent. Many companies, including American Water, are already engaging in inclusion, diversity and equity work in their own ways. Working together intentionally, developing new outreach and equity practices makes sense as we seek to advance the economic prosperity of our community.”

Many Chattanooga Chamber initiatives align with the CEO Pledge for Racial Equity. The Chattanooga Climbs five-year strategic plan advances economic development by focusing on jobs and talent. Jobs and talent are central to the success of the CEO Pledge for Racial Equity. Education initiative Chattanooga 2.0 complements Chattanooga Climbs by placing attention on essential components to workforce success: talent development, 21st century education and social and economic mobility.

“When combined with a CEO Pledge for Racial Equity, these initiatives frame a comprehensive approach to transform the economic landscape of Chattanooga and Hamilton County to include everyone,” said Christy Gillenwater, President and CEO, Chattanooga Chamber. “We invite Chattanooga business leaders to take the Pledge to build a more inclusive economy.”

70 local business leaders have signed the pledge so far. Take the pledge here.

Other Topics

As someone who moved around frequently in recent years, I've always chased a sense of community. This led me to relocate to Chattanooga in August of 2021. I wanted to integrate my life into the Scenic City, and the Chamber…

The effects of the global pandemic have placed a tight hold on an already strained workforce. In 2021, approximately 47.4 million workers left their positions in search of better opportunities. The same year closed with 4.6 million more job openings…

Nearly 15,000 people are released from Tennessee penitentiaries each year. Project Return is dedicated to helping the formerly incarcerated successfully transition back into communities and work. Founded in Nashville in 1979, Project Return expanded to Chattanooga in 2021. The nonprofit program provides the resources and services,…

Sign up for weekly updates.