In this episode of Recharged with the State Impact Center we speak with Minnesota AG Keith Ellison and David Glasgow, Executive Director of the Meltzer Center for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at NYU about ESG (short for Environmental, Social, and Governance) and how it connects with DEI (short for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion). Their conversation discusses the connections between these terms and explores how communities and advocates can be affected by practices and pushback related to ESG and DEI.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison: Learn more about AG Keith Ellison, Minnesota’s 30th Attorney General
David Glasgow: Learn more about the David Glasgow, the Executive Director of the Meltzer Center for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at NYU School of Law
Environmental, and Social, and Governance…Oh My!: Listen to our previous episode on ESG with former Maryland AG Brian Frosh
Letter on DEI Practices at Fortune 100 Companies: Read the letter from twenty one AGs on DEI practices, refuting claims that those practices may be unlawful
Letter Urging Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to Address Greenwashing: Read the comments from sixteen AGs asking the FTC to update their guidance on the use of environmental marketing claims
MN AG Lawsuit against Reynolds Bag Co.: Read about AG Ellison’s lawsuit targeting deceptive marketing around recyclability claims from the Reynolds Company on their trash bags
“Break the Wheel”: Read AG Ellison’s book recounting accounting the Derek Chauvin trial and examining the cyclical nature of police violence
House Financial Services Committee Hearing: Listen to a the House committee hearing on ESG with AG Ellison testifying
Civil Rights Act of 1964: Read civil rights legislation from the 1960s, considered the foundation for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) practices
Supreme Court Decision on Students for Fair Admissions Case: Read the recent decision by the Supreme Court on affirmative action
Letter Calling on Congress to Defend Consideration of ESG Factors: Read the letter from 18 AGs, led by MN AG Keith Ellison and AZ AG Kris Mayes, urging congress to not prohibit fund managers from incorporating ESG factors in their investment strategy
Bethany Davis Noll: [00:00:00] Hi, I’m Bethany Davis Noll. You’re listening to Recharged with the State Impact Center, a podcast where we tackle the latest legal and policy debates about how to protect the planet and people’s health with a focus on the powers and duties of state AGs. Combining research and expertise with a look at careers in this field, we will learn more about the role of states in protecting people and the role you and I can play.
Today, we’re continuing our conversation on issues around Environmental Social Governance, or ESG. And I’m joined by Attorney General Keith Ellison of Minnesota to have this conversation along with David Glasgow, the Executive Director of the Meltzer Center for Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at NYU School of Law.
Prior to becoming the People’s Lawyer of Minnesota in 2019, AG Ellison represented the state for 12 years in the United States House of Representatives, where he served on the Financial Services Committee and founded the Congressional Antitrust Caucus. As Attorney General, Ellison serves on the governing board of the Minnesota State Board of Investment, which manages retirement savings for the state’s public employees.
David Glasgow, as I said, runs the Meltzer Center here at NYU, and he’s also the co author of a new book, Say the Right Thing, how to talk about identity, diversity, and justice. David’s work at the Meltzer Center focuses on the intersection of law and diversity, equity, and inclusion practices in the workplace.
Thank you both for joining us today.
AG Ellison: Hey, good to see you.
David Glasgow: Thanks for having us.
Bethany Davis Noll: All right, so recently on this podcast, Recharged, I spoke with former Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh about what ESG really means, what that acronym really means, particularly what it means for Attorneys General. We talked about why consideration of data related to environmental, social, and governance issues at companies is important for people’s long term savings.
And Brian and I unpacked ongoing efforts to prevent asset managers from considering this data. We’re also seeing efforts to prevent businesses from taking positive environmental, social, or governance actions in the first place. For example, there are bills in the House right now that would restrict the influence of shareholder resolutions on a company’s practices.
[00:02:00] So I want to start with you, David. I’m hoping you can help us understand what this fight is all about. You know, bring us back to the basics. What are some of the ESG commitments that businesses are making? Given your expertise in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space, help us understand what those commitments are.
David Glasgow: Sure. So, you know, diversity, equity, inclusion is a field that, you know, really stretches back decades that kind of emerged out of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and, you know, companies engaging in voluntary compliance efforts to try to advance. It’s, it’s anti discrimination goals, uh, and create more equal opportunity in the workplace.
And so it’s been around for, um, a very long time and, and the terminology has shifted, right? So some of the terminology around affirmative action kind of became diversity management, which then became diversity and inclusion. And then over the years, other. Terms have been added to that as well, like equity or belonging or even justice.
But all of these, uh, involve a whole set of different kind of commitments and activities that different companies adopt. So examples might include having diversity or representation targets. I’m sure many listeners are aware that after the murder of George Floyd in 2020, many companies made commitments to, uh, achieve a certain percentage representation of, you know, employees or managers at certain levels within the company.
Uh, it may be hiring of diversity personnel, like chief diversity officers or establishing task forces on racial or gender equity, for example. Uh, commitments around philanthropic giving or, you know, partnerships with non profits that work on diversity or identity type issues. Internal employee training, so, uh, training around inclusive leadership, implicit bias, and those kinds of issues, maybe even tying manager compensation to diversity and inclusion outcomes.
[00:04:00] So telling managers that there are certain goals that they, the company wants to achieve from a diversity standpoint and incentivizing them to achieve it. So there are all kinds of practices around, you know, recruitment, retention, promotion that fall under the umbrella of DEI. So it’s an extremely broad field.
Bethany Davis Noll: Thanks, David. Okay. So, AG Ellison, you’ve written about this topic, too. Can you tell us about your book, Break the Wheel?
AG Ellison: Well, you know, as Attorney General, I led the prosecution of the, of the officers who, who murdered George Floyd, and we obtained successful convictions. We successfully obtained those convictions.
And, uh, after that, I, I wrote about it in a book entitled, Break the Wheel, Ending the Cycle of Police Violence. And when I talk to folks about the pivotal changes that have had happened in the last few years, a lot of times some of the changes were marked by the death of George Floyd. So I offer that to you and your listeners, uh, consideration.
Bethany Davis Noll: Thank you, AG Ellison. Thanks for sharing that book with us and also for the work you did. It was incredible. Okay. So businesses are responding to consumer demand and a lot of other pressures and saying they’re doing better on DEI often. So, AG Ellison, do these companies face legal liability if they don’t undertake some of these practices?
AG Ellison: You know, Bethany, they face legal liability if they engage in discrimination, and so they’re embedded within DEI as non discrimination, and you cannot, uh, use somebody’s race or sex, national origin against them in terms of employment. But I like to think of DEI as much more than just avoiding liability.
It’s actually in creating a welcoming and affirming workplace. I will tell you that we recently, uh, in the AG world among dim AGs, encountered a situation where some more conservative AGs wrote a letter to Fortune 100 companies telling them that if they pursue DEI practices that they could be sued for reverse discrimination.
[00:06:00] Well, we wrote a letter in response. It was led by our, uh, chair of our group from Nevada. But we reminded the Fortune 100 companies that, you know, look, DEI practices are practices that are designed to really help everyone in your employment. Certainly, people of color, women, LGBT staff, disability staff that has disabilities, but also people who may be single parents, people who might be veterans, people who might have a, any range of, of identities that in some way might exclude them or keep them apart of the, the employee community.
So DEI programs certainly do include anti discrimination. Which everybody’s required to comply with those, but it’s more than that. It really is building an inclusive workplace that involves everybody, no matter what your race, sex, sexual orientation, or ability status might be.
David Glasgow: Yeah, and Bethany, if I could just add to that, I, I couldn’t agree more with that.
Um, uh, you know, I, I like to draw a kind of distinction between, you know, compliance work. So if you go to say a sexual harassment training or something in the workplace to learn how to avoid legal liability for harassment. You know, that’s one thing, but all of these DEI activities are really building above that floor.
The law really sets a minimum floor or standard for what you can’t do to one another, but DEI is really about building a more inclusive culture above that floor.
Bethany Davis Noll: That’s great. Thank you both. So let’s talk also about the E from ESG, you know, Corporate Environmental Sustainability Actions. You know, one thing that I think is interesting is that companies are taking actions in that space too.
You know, Thank you. Similar to the, in the DEI space in response to pressures from regulators, from communities, from the market, but also these factors which try to synthesize businesses, environmental, racial, racial justice actions are an important lens into that work to understand how environmental justice communities, for example, are affected by a business’s decision making.
[00:08:00] And so, you know, with the pushback going on and the potential to lose transparency into what these companies are doing, or just without the transparency that better ESG reporting provides. What do you both think we should do to hold companies accountable and sort of, you know, stated differently if any of these companies walk back their commitments or public reporting on either their environmental or equity aimed practices, what’s the potential impact on advocates asking for racial and environmental justice?
AG Ellison: Well, this is key. I think it would be, uh, I would not advise companies walk back their commitments to reporting because first of all, It goes back to what Dave and I were talking about a moment ago, embedded in DEI is non discrimination. You don’t want to find yourself having really, really bad numbers when it comes to representation.
That might not alone be the basis of a lawsuit, but it certainly could raise questions around whether you have equal employment opportunity on the job. But more than that, you know, you want to, if you’re selling any product at all to the public, it’s a good idea to be able to tell the public. That, uh, you know, that the public is welcome in your company, it’s a good, it’s, it’s a good thing to be able to say people like you and, you know, that broadly defined, uh, are people who our company cares about, right?
And so I would say that there could be risks, but more than that, you, you don’t want to service the community, meet the needs, the economic needs of the, of the community through the product or service that you offer. And then turn right around and say, but folks like you would not be welcome to work here.
So I think it is, it’s a good idea to build these measures of accountability and transparency. It’s what I do as AG of Minnesota is I tell my managers that, you know, people respect what others inspect and how can you inspect anything unless you have some numbers and some transparency around how we’re doing.
If your numbers don’t look as well as you want them to, that doesn’t mean you’re going to be subject to liability. But it might mean that you have some work to do to make sure that the public knows that your company is a welcoming environment, cares about the entire public, and believes that everybody has an important role to play as it relates to the success of your company.
So, you know, my office, uh, looks out for whether a company is Being straight and honest with consumers about environmental practices or greenwashing. We want to know these things. As a member of the SBI, this is information that I think that we need. And therefore, we need to be able to count and measure.
This is why I joined a letter to the FTC, Federal Trade Commission, asking that they update their guidance on the use of environmental marketing claims. You know, to me, it’s just a matter of being honest and straightforward with consumers. And, you know, we want to make sure that we’re including... Not just claims about recyclability, but also claims about, you know, renewable, clean, green gasoline or fuels and other climate or environmental issues that companies may mislead consumers about.
Quite frankly, we filed a lawsuit not too long ago regarding Reynolds Company because some of their garbage bags were making claims about recyclability that simply were not true. And so we entered into a, an agreement where they would stop making those unfounded claims and take other action to make sure the environmental consumer was well informed and receiving accurate information.
Let me also say that, you know, a company can face substantial financial penalties for greenwashing if their claims are false. And I just mentioned some of these companies producing garbage bags, you know, they make them green and they say they’re green. But they’re really not, you know, we, we’ve taken action to stop that, but also my office is holding several fossil fuel companies accountable, not because they’re polluting, but because they wage campaigns, advertising campaigns of deception around the true cause of climate change and around the effect of climate change.
[00:12:00] In fact, you know, our lawsuit against Exxon Mobil and the American Petroleum Institute and Koch Industries is basically. Based on them making claims that there’s no such thing as climate change and anybody who says they are there is one is a chicken little or as an alarmist or are not honest, but the truth is, they’re the ones who are not honest.
So we’re holding them accountable. I think that we’re seeing. Shareholder resolutions about companies, environmental practices, because poor practices could cause companies a lot and certainly not just money, but also reputational risk and good practices bring investor loyalty, consumer loyalty, and those things can lead to greater profit.
Bethany Davis Noll: That’s so interesting. You bring up the shareholder demands piece. We’re seeing a lot of pushback on shareholder rights at the moment from some of your colleagues in other states and in Congress. I wonder, AG Ellison, if you could tell us a bit more about shareholder resolutions on these issues.
AG Ellison: Well, let me tell you, shareholder democracy is very important.
People are going to put their money into a company. I mean, I think they have to have a voice. So I am worried about limitations on shareholder resolutions are going to work. I’m concerned about these things because I believe they undermine Shareholder prerogative, uh, voice and, uh, you know, and I think that this ultimately limits the company’s ability to assess risk properly.
And quite honestly, we’re standing up against these things and saying that shareholders have a right to be heard and to make their demands. These shareholder resolutions aren’t just trying to get companies to avoid liability from enforcement for poor environmental practices or misleading consumers.
[00:14:00] There are also shareholders who are rightly concerned that companies are not prepared for the serious physical and transitional risks associated with changing climate. So we got two things on the horizon. One is congressional action, which might limit shareholder resolutions. And of course, the importance of emphasizing how valuable these shareholder resolutions can be.
In Minnesota, for example. Climate change is causing major increases in insurance premiums, health care costs, causing significant losses to our agricultural sector, as well as our local economy centered around whether winter recreational sports and whether we’ll be able to maintain those. Climate is affecting or we believe will affect every aspect of our economy.
So businesses need to be planning accordingly. If you limit a shareholder’s ability to file a resolution to be environmentally responsible, you’re limiting that company’s ability to assess risk and to plan to meet future consumer demands. So this is why ESG data is important. Asset managers who steward the long term savings of our state’s residents and who assess risk need to be able to consider whether businesses are really ready for those risks when making investment decisions.
So we’re going to stand up for shareholder democracy and resist efforts to limit it from people who don’t want to have a conversation about climate.
Bethany Davis Noll: Thanks so much for breaking that down so well for somebody who doesn’t know anything about shareholder resolutions. I appreciate that. So, you know, it, it seems like climate considerations like diversity, equity and inclusion practices are necessary, you know, necessary to mitigate risk of loss, you know, from legal liability and to diminish consumer interest and so on and also good for profits.
Thank you. Okay, so David, why is there such a strong backlash on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts right now? Is that what we’re seeing? You know, actually I should ask, is there a backlash? And if, if, if you’re seeing that, how should companies respond to the legal challenges that DEI is facing in the current environment? And you know, what do you think the future of that, those, that work will look like?
David Glasgow: [00:16:00] Yeah, so there absolutely is a backlash. Uh, you know, I mentioned that DEI has been around for a long time, but that, you know, what we really saw from the Meltzer Center’s vantage was, you know, in 2020 is really where there was an extraordinary amount of attention paid to issues of DEI.
So a lot of organizations that hadn’t really been doing a lot of DEI work before were suddenly. Scrambling to hire chief diversity officers, make all sorts of diversity commitments. It was, you know, a lot of attention on these issues. And of course, that, you know, predictably then, you know, led to a significant backlash where a lot of So, folks in the conservative movement mobilized to really push back hard on DEI activities to tarnish a lot of this work as, you know, so called wokeness, uh, and so going after it in the media, you know, going after it with these so called kind of anti critical race theory movement, and then now increasingly we’re seeing them go after DEI programs in the courts.
So, in particular. Since the Supreme Court’s, uh, decision in June, um, on Affirmative Action, the, okay, the Students for Fair Admissions case, we’ve seen, uh, a lot of lawsuits being filed, uh, some of them by the very same person who brought the Students for Fair Admissions lawsuit, Edward Bloom. Filing lawsuits against, uh, you know, an organization, a venture capital fund that provides funding to black women, uh, entrepreneurs.
Uh, he’s also filed lawsuits against, uh, various law firms. And then other, you know, so called reverse discrimination claims in which, you know, white individuals or men or white men. Bringing claims that they’ve been discriminated against and pointing to company DEI practices as evidence of their discrimination So there is definitely, you know a backlash against DEI efforts right now I think a lot of it is a response to the Momentum that was behind DEI just a few years earlier and in terms of how you know company should respond to that Well And I think one thing is to really recognize that risks exist on both sides.
[00:18:00] So as AG Ellison was, you know, pointing out, there are, you know, attempts like the letter from the various Republican attorneys general. that are kind of threatening, you know, companies claiming that, you know, various activities that they’re engaged in are illegal. But a lot of those efforts I see as being, you know, politically motivated of sort of exaggerating the legal risks of DEI, of trying to tie the Students for Fair Admissions decision, which was about education admissions, trying to carry that over to the employment context in ways that I think, you know, overstate the impact of that decision.
So some of it is just to be Companies really having a clear eyed understanding of their legal risks and working with their legal counsel to, you know, determine what is and isn’t risky and what they’re doing. And also to remember the risks on the other side, right? So, if you abandon all of your DEI programs, if you thereby become a really unwelcoming environment, For marginalized people in your workplace, if you create extra barriers for them to succeed, you may be creating more risk of traditional discrimination lawsuits coming your way.
So you don’t want to kind of just preemptively get rid of all of your DEI programs in the hopes that you’re going to escape legal liability. And the final thing I would say is, you know, you asked about what I think the future of DEI will look like. You know, sadly, I do think that under the current legal landscape with the 6 3 conservative supermajority on the Supreme Court, I do expect the law of employment discrimination to become, you know, conservative in the years ahead unless the composition of the court significantly changes.
And so I do think that, you know, there are going to be certain shifts in emphasis that might take place in some aspects of DEI. So for example, I think an emphasis on the de-biasing aspects of DEI is going to be really important. That is a focus on how to create, you know, systems and processes in the workplace that are actually removing, you know, the bias that often exists in these processes that prevents them,
[00:20:00] people from being able to succeed because, you know, there’s nothing legally that can stop an employer from, you know, trying to find out areas where there are, you know, inequities in the workplace or bias built into the system and trying to create a more level playing field for their employees. I think that’s one important shift.
And another is, I think there’s going to be a little bit more of an opening up of programs to emphasize their universal application. So AG Ellison mentioned earlier that these programs don’t just benefit You know, particular groups in the workplace, they really benefit everybody. And I think an emphasis that companies are going to increasingly really lean into that universality, I think, to talk about the ways in which a more diverse, equitable, inclusive environment is better for everyone, including members of majority or dominant groups, because it makes teams smarter.
It makes them more innovative and creative, makes everyone feel more included and respected in the workplace.
Bethany Davis Noll: That’s helpful, David. And, you know, again, I’m seeing some interesting similarities with the environmental practices and companies, you know, these sort of savvy environmentally focused business practices also have the potential for financial growth and guarding against risks as we’ve talked about.
And there’s so many emerging technologies and market opportunities related to this to environmental, you know, uh, Sustainable practices, uh, which benefit everybody, you know, from renewable energy to carbon capture, EV charging, electric vehicle charging, sustainable agricultural practices, energy efficiency, there’s just so much innovation.
And as you’ve both been talking about, it’s about programs that benefit everybody and, you know, at the, at the core of the DEI practices, it’s about belonging. So, AG Ellison, you know, what do you think about that? What do you think about my, my point about the similarities here, sort of the, the parallels between these two, two areas that companies are, may be seeing?
AG Ellison: [00:22:00] I think you’re spot on. You know, absolutely. You’re talking about business, uh, activity that, uh, has the potential for financial returns. ESG is just trying to synthesize how companies environmental, social, and governance decisions and their practices might affect potential risks and might also offer rewards, too.
So, I think that it is very important to continue to have a broad, open minded approach, an inclusive approach, because if you cut off, you know, the analysis, That are different, that an investment vehicle makes, then you’re cutting off their opportunity for growth as well. And so, I think you’re right there, correct, that many of the things you mentioned, Renewable energy, carbon capture, EV charging, other things, really actually have a very good upside as well. And we don’t want to miss out on that.
David Glasgow: And there’s research, Bethany, in the DEI context as well, around how You know, diversity makes, you know, teams operate more effectively because people are able to generate more diverse range of ideas and be more creative and so forth. So from a financial, even just from a purely profit making perspective, these programs make a lot of sense.
Bethany Davis Noll: Got it. Yeah. Thank you both. You know, this is reminding me of a hearing we heard over the summer at the House Financial Services Committee, Um, on environmental and social policy and financial regulation. And AG Ellison, you were there. You testified. And you mentioned how the Minnesota State Board of Investment considers ESG factors relevant to financial returns.
And now, we’ll play a clip from that hearing.
Hearing Clip: We’ll now go to Attorney General Ellison. Thank you for being here. Certainly. Thank you, Chairman McHenry. And thank you, Ranking Member Waters and members of the committee. ESG best practices and high market returns go hand in hand. Minnesota’s public employees want us to invest wisely so their retirement is secure as their fiduciaries.
[00:24:00] We have a duty to carefully consider all relevant investment risks and opportunities on their behalf. Their future is our portfolio. Indeed, it is the duty of fiduciary fiduciaries in every sector to consider risks and opportunities that could impact their investments and their business. The private sector is now overwhelmingly considering ESG risk factors in investing.
This is why 96 percent of the largest 250 global companies now issue a sustainability report. They don’t do it out of the goodness of their hearts. They do it because it’s good for business, shareholders, pensioners, and profits. ESG is nothing more than looking clear eyed at risks and opportunities in the real world and making sound investment decisions on that basis.
Bethany Davis Noll: That clip really helps highlight the role you play on the Minnesota State Board of Investment. So, AG Ellison, what more can you tell us about this board’s investment values related to ESG?
AG Ellison: Well, the board manages the retirement savings for like, you know, 820, 000 active and retired Minnesota public employees.
That’s a lot of people. So, you know, the, the board, the SBI, we call it does seriously consider ESG data. We, we wouldn’t call ourselves an ESG fund, but we consider ESG data, uh, because it can inform risk and return potential. And because of that, we have one of the highest performing public pension funds in America.
You know, honestly, I believe the law requires this. We are fiduciaries everyone on the SBI is a fiduciary, which means that we are people. who are required to carefully consider what’s best for the beneficiaries who are the pensioners. And so we have to take our jobs seriously and be good stewards of other people’s money and assets.
[00:26:00] And so we should be looking at all relevant factors that weigh on risks and returns. And this has to include factors related to whether a company is being responsive to the market. And conditional realities of climate change and of course, attended risks associated with certain investments, which in the future may not be more profitable or may involve a substantial likelihood of liability.
And so this is what we’re doing. We want to know how is a company developing and managing its workforce to respond to concerns that its customers and community may have. And those concerns may involve issues of racial justice, consumer justice, climate, and a whole range of things. You know, I noted to, when I testified, which was interesting because I used to sit on the financial services committee.
So it was a bit of a switcheroo. But I told them in my testimony, and of course Dave has been doing a great job explaining here, that these factors simply affect the bottom line. They simply do. And as fiduciaries, We need to be considering them and I’ll just say this some of the opponents of this some of the folks on the other side That they think they’re gonna roll back 20th the 21st century.
They’re not America is a multi racial society. It is a multi racial democracy that we’re not going back to the 50s and we’re gonna consider all the factors that bear on the on the soundness and and profitability of the pension fund.
Bethany Davis Noll: That’s good to hear. This has been a really interesting conversation. I’ve learned a lot. I wondered if you two would have any last advice for the listeners out there. And I guess I had proposed, you know, thinking about it this way, like, what’s your advice for either somebody in a company who’s got the sustainability job or the DEI job? And then, you know, when you think about this, what do you think about?
Like, what do you, who are you thinking about? Who are the real people that are affected by these practices that you’re thinking about when you’re giving that advice? I’d love to hear your last thoughts on, on those topics.
David Glasgow: [00:28:00] The first part of your question about, you know, people who maybe have a DEI job within organizations, you know, this is a difficult time for them because of all the backlash that they’re experiencing, um, both, you know, externally and also internally.
We speak with DEI professionals all the time who say that they’re getting a lot more pushback from different people within their organization who are really questioning the foundations of this work and why we do it. So a couple of bits of advice, you know, one is I think at this time of great kind of legal backlash, it’s important to try to skill up on the law because sometimes what we hear from DEI folks is that they’ll have conversations with someone from the general counsel’s office of their organization who perhaps doesn’t really know all that much about DEI or have a lot of expertise in anti discrimination law, but they’re sort of jumping in and saying no, no, no, and trying to shut programs down.
And I think it could be helpful to really try to build a stronger partnership with your general counsel’s office to try and learn a little bit about the kind of basics of the law in this area so that you’re equipped to be able to have that conversation with them and push back a little bit when you’re having those rather than just immediately saying, Oh, okay, well, if you’ve told me that it’s risky, then we should stop doing that.
So that’s one point. Another is more generally to just go back to. Basics of why you do this work and why it’s so important so that when you’re having these conversations outside of the law With people who think that it’s unfair to, you know, to have these programs Because they’re giving preference to people from certain communities or what have you To just be able to explain to people, you know, thoughtfully, based on the data, based on the research, why this work is important and why it’s important and benefits everybody.
In terms of the kind of real people that I think about who are affected by this work, One of the things that I think is unfortunate about the discussion about DEI in the public arena is that People, uh, on the right have done a good job of success of kind of tarring this work as a kind of elite level discourse of making people think that it’s kind of ivory tower conversations or that DEI is only for members of kind of elite universities or elite kind of corporate workplaces and the like.
[00:30:00] I actually think much more about ordinary working people who are trying to get ahead, right, when they’re trying to find a job and maybe not getting access to those jobs because of, you know, racial discrimination in the process of hiring them. Or, you know, ordinary people who go to work each day and just want to feel respected and have their ideas and contributions heard and taken seriously in the workplace, or they want a fair opportunity to get a promotion, right, or they just want to be treated with dignity in the workplace.
To me, those are the people that DEI is all about and really should be serving, and so I think I would also exhort, you know, anyone who’s, you know, listening or involved in these conversations as well to really try to bring the conversation back to those ordinary individuals, to try to push back a little bit on this attempt that the right has made to tar it as an elitist project.
AG Ellison: Yeah, I agree with everything David said. Dave wanna really wanna thank you for the work that you’re doing and the work and the work you do in the area. I’ll just say this, what is DEI? It is saying that that person who might be in a wheelchair because of their health situation might actually be, uh, the best programmer you have on staff that women have as just as much ability to lead a team as any man does that people of color get up and work hard like everybody else.
And maybe the problem is that we’re just not looking at them as part of our workforce. Maybe some of those investments that we have a lot of money sunk into, they’re not the future. Maybe we should redeploy the money into stuff that’s going to make money into the future, not some old stuff of a bygone era.
[00:32:00] And so that’s all it is. And I just want to say, you know, can we just be clear? DEI is about the white guys too. And sometimes we, we don’t acknowledge that. I mean, think about somebody who might have been deployed overseas, come back and is struggling with PTS or might be a single dad or might be from a rural community and not really feel like right in sync with all these city folks.
I mean, if you’re a DEI person on your game, you need to be trying to figure out how to make an inclusive environment for everybody on staff and trying to help members of the staff understand each other better and appreciate each other more so that they can be an effective team. So that’s really what I hope people keep in mind.
And I’ll just say don’t back down. You’re on the right side of history. You’re doing the right thing. You’re advancing human kindness, which is a good thing. And you’re positioning our, the company and our world for a sustainable future. And, uh, don’t back down on that.
Bethany Davis Noll: Thank you both so much for those thoughts and for sharing your expertise. It’s really fun talking with you.
AG Ellison: Well, it was our pleasure. Thank you.
David Glasgow: Thank you so much, Bethany. Thank you, AG Ellison.
AG Ellison: You bet.
Jasmine Elbekraoui: Thank you for listening to today’s episode on environmental, social, and governance factors. Links to the material discussed are available in the show notes for this episode. You can find it by searching for Recharged. That’s R E C H A R G E D. on our website at stateimpactcenter. org. If you have any questions on today’s episode or previous ones, you can email us at stateimpactcenter at nyu. edu and follow us on Twitter and Instagram using the handle at stateimpactcenter. Recharged with a State Impact Center was produced and edited by Jasmine Elbekraoui and Carlos Minaya.
AG Keith Ellison
Minnesota Attorney General
Keith Ellison was sworn in as Minnesota’s 30th attorney general on January 7, 2019. As the People’s Lawyer, Attorney General Ellison’s job is to help Minnesotans afford their lives and live with dignity, safety, and respect. His guiding values are generosity and inclusion. From 2007 to 2019, Keith Ellison represented Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he championed consumer, worker, environmental, and civil- and human-rights protections for Minnesotans. Attorney General Ellison received his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1990. He is the first African American and the first Muslim American to be elected to statewide office in Minnesota.
David Glasgow is the executive director of the Meltzer Center for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging and an adjunct professor of law at NYU School of Law. In his role at the Meltzer Center, he develops and executes educational programs on diversity and inclusion for internal and external clients, coordinates a speaker series and other events on contemporary diversity and inclusion issues, and manages the center’s general operations. He has co-taught courses at the Law School on leadership, diversity, and inclusion, and has co-authored a book with Kenji Yoshino, Say the Right Thing: How to Talk about Identity, Diversity, and Justice.
Bethany Davis Noll
Bethany Davis Noll is an expert in administrative and environmental law and an experienced litigator. She is an adjunct professor at NYU Law and former co-chair of the Environmental Law Committee of the New York City Bar Association.Read More