As conflict in the Middle East escalates following last week’s attacks on civilians in Israel by Hamas, American business leaders are among those being asked to join the calls to condemn terrorism and alleviate antisemitic tensions around the globe.
The Anti-Defamation League this week issued a call to action for CEOs of Fortune 500s and other major corporations to sign its Workplace Pledge to Fight Antisemitism. More than two dozen corporations have done so since it was released this summer, including the National Basketball Association, Northwell Health, Adidas and American Eagle.
Signers of the document commit to incorporate antisemitism as a dimension of their DEI programming, offer specific resources for Jewish employees, have robust religious accommodations and use the company’s position to fight hate.
Such a pledge is more critical than ever, says Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL, who says there has been a “surge of antisemitism” around the world in the wake of the terrorist attacks—which killed more than 1,300 Israelis and wounded more than 3,000, sparking a response that has left more than 1,500 dead and 6,600 wounded in Gaza, according to the Wall Street Journal.
This is an opportunity for corporations, Greenblatt says, to “use their bully pulpits to strongly and forcefully condemn antisemitism in all forms and to ensure that their workplaces remain safe places for Jewish employees.”
Professional services firm Accenture signed the pledge in September, says Ellyn Shook, chief leadership and human resources officer. The organization was motivated to add its name because the document “aligns with our values, including zero tolerance for hate of any kind.” That message is especially resonant in light of this week’s events, she says.
“That commitment stands today for our Jewish colleagues and community—and any community experiencing hate, violence or discrimination,” Shook says. “In times like this, it’s important for us to come together as a global community to live our shared values—to support, care for and respect one another. ”
‘Great power’ and ‘great responsibility’ for HR about Israel
In times of human crisis, it is incumbent upon corporations to lead, says Zachary Chertok, HCM research analyst for IDC.
“Modern organizations carry social capital and—depending on their size and scale—equal or greater financial power than even governing entities. With great power comes great responsibility,” he says.
Yet, if organizations fail to respond in a timely way to “events that contravene the basic tenets of right and wrong that form the foundational principles of society,” Chertok says, “they essentially defer the responsibilities given to them by the power they wield.”
It’s a power that employees are increasingly aware of.
For instance, a Jobsage survey of American employees found that nearly two-thirds believe their employer should take a stand on important social issues. This reality led many employers to make public their positions on the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade and to offer statements of support for Ukraine after Russia’s 2022 invasion.
Organizational statements, Chertok says, can “reinforce common and baseline boundaries that define employee safety, found common values and lay the groundwork for the conditions of good stewardship and business.”
Over the last few days, many company statements on the crisis have come from companies with operations in the Middle East.
ManpowerGroup CEO Jonas Prising, for instance, said in a statement that the company stands “firmly” behind Israel, adding that the wellbeing of team members and families in Israel is the organization’s “top concern.”
“We are learning of the direct and tragic impact on our colleagues, and our leaders and teams on the ground are working tirelessly to provide support,” he wrote on LinkedIn.
According to CNN, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase issued a memo to all employees last weekend, instructing the 200-plus workers based in Israel to work from home for the foreseeable future and pledging to “stand with our employees, their families and the people of Israel during this time of great suffering and loss.” Goldman Sachs leadership issued a similar expression of solidarity.
Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., president and CEO of SHRM, urged business leaders, particularly HR professionals around the globe, to “lead with civility, compassion and empathy.”
As the crisis continues to unfold, Chertok says, employers that choose to stay silent are sending a precedent-setting message—to both employees and customers—that they can’t trust the organization and its leadership “to do the right thing and stand up for humanity under the terms of what is defined as acceptable by social convention. Where there is no trust, there is no organization, there is no loyalty, there is no safety, and there is no sustainable or productive and collaborative workforce.”