Internal Memo: CEO Michael Roth Addresses IPG’s ‘Responsibility’ to Fight Systemic Racism

By Erik Oster Comment

After addressing systemic racism in a message otherwise devoted to IPG’s reopening strategy last Friday, IPG CEO Michael Roth sent an internal memo to all holding company employees earlier this afternoon, tackling the “recent horrendous acts of discrimination and violence” in the U.S. which have sparked widespread protest, including the police murder of George Floyd.

Roth opened today’s memo by noting the “need of addressing an issue that affects the very core of our society.”

“We are filled with sorrow, outrage and grief over the tragic loss of yet another Black person’s life at the hands of law enforcement—a loss that was unjust and avoidable,” he said, also acknowledging the “direct pain some members of our community feel as the victims of discrimination, when they are fearful for their lives simply because of the color of their skin, their beliefs, country of origin, or the many other dimensions of diversity that define us.

“While the recent horrendous acts of discrimination and violence have occurred in the U.S., the terrible feelings they elicit are universal,” he continued, adding that employees have spent the past several months managing to persevere and “overcome personal obstacles in the face of a worldwide pandemic.

“Yet we are facing an enemy that is even more evil than a virus that has literally shut our world down,” he continued. “We are confronting something just as destructive, and in some ways even more damaging—something that, if it is not corrected, will continue to permeate society for generations to come.”

Roth noted that the two challenges have the “ability to unite, rather than divide us” in bringing people together to “stand as allies and to make certain that we are never the purveyors of hate.”

He reaffirmed that IPG’s commitment to make its offices places of welcoming, “where people can feel safe, respected and protected,” and promote understanding “is stronger now than it has ever been.”

“Seeing our company’s response to Covid-19 has given me hope. And I believe our collective response to stamp out systemic racism can also give us hope,” he wrote. Roth said that IPG had a responsibility to make a difference and some “concrete steps” to do so, including “CEO Diversity Council to work together in a more direct, collaborative and organized manner to ensure that our own house is in order.

“This means we will more tightly align our recognition and incentive programs with our ability to create a more equitable and diverse culture in our own organization,” Roth explained, adding that IPG would also leverage its Business Resource Groups, which include the Black Employee Network, SOMOS, the IPGLBT and the Asian Heritage Group, “to strengthen and foster inclusive cultures and ways of working across our network,” as well as continuing its partnership with UNWomen Unstereotype Alliance. He also called on employees to share any ideas for collective actions.

“As always, if you are feeling worried or unsafe, I urge you to reach out to your manager or your HR partner to ensure we are hearing your truth,” Roth said, adding that employees could also reach out to himself, senior leadership or utilize the IPG Alertline to report any incidences of bias and reminded employees of other available resources.

“All of us at IPG are committed to doing everything we can to come together and unite our communities, to help heal both our bodies and our spirits,” he concluded.

In addition to his own previous message, the memo arrives the same day as Omnicom CEO John Wren‘s memo addressing “recent acts of racism against diverse communities” and specifically referencing the police killing of George Floyd as well as a racist incident in New York’s Central Park involving Omnicom employee Christian Cooper.  It also comes on the heels of an internal video from Publicis Groupe CEO Arthur Sadoun released yesterday which was criticized by some employees for failing to adequately address racism. IPG Mediabrands CEO Daryl Lee dedicated an internal memo last Friday to addressing racism, police brutality and its impact on employees.

Here’s the memo in full:

Once again we find ourselves in need of addressing an issue that affects the very core of our society. We are filled with sorrow, outrage and grief over the tragic loss of yet another Black person’s life at the hands of law enforcement—a loss that was unjust and avoidable. Not to mention the direct pain some members of our community feel as the victims of discrimination, when they are fearful for their lives simply because of the color of their skin, their beliefs, country of origin, or the many other dimensions of diversity that define us.

While the recent horrendous acts of discrimination and violence have occurred in the U.S., the terrible feelings they elicit are universal. We have spent much of the last several months talking with one another about how we have managed to collaborate, to persevere, to overcome personal obstacles in the face of a worldwide pandemic, the likes of which none of us have known in our lifetimes. Yet we are facing an enemy that is even more evil than a virus that has literally shut our world down. We are confronting something just as destructive, and in some ways even more damaging—something that, if it is not corrected, will continue to permeate society for generations to come.

What the two challenges have in common, however, is their ability to unite, rather than divide us. To bring us together, to encourage us to stand as allies and to make certain that we are never the purveyors of hate. At IPG, we work to make all of our offices places that are welcoming, that are supportive, and where people can feel safe, respected and protected. Where we promote understanding, and certainly never stoke the flames of intolerance. I want you to know that our commitment to continue to do so is stronger now than it has ever been.

Seeing our company’s response to COVID-19 has given me hope. And I believe our collective response to stamp out systemic racism can also give us hope.

As a company that creates advertising and marketing messages, we have an opportunity to make a difference. More than an opportunity, a responsibility. This is something we have understood for a long time. Our values speak to it, and our work brings it to life. We create messaging that can help shape public discourse, can bridge divides and reminds us all of what we share—our common humanity. We can and must continue to do so. I know I can count on all of you to continue to do your part.

In terms of the concrete steps we are taking, I am asking our CEO Diversity Council to work together in a more direct, collaborative and organized manner to ensure that our own house is in order. This means we will more tightly align our recognition and incentive programs with our ability to create a more equitable and diverse culture in our own organization. We will also leverage our Business Resource Groups including the Black Employee Network, SOMOS, the IPGLBT and the Asian Heritage Group, to strengthen and foster inclusive cultures and ways of working across our network. And, we will also continue our partnership with the UNWomen Unstereotype Alliance, which aims to eradicate harmful stereotypes across all dimensions of diversity, and will activate collaborative forums for our creative leadership and teams, so that we can focus on what brings us together, rather than what divides us. We’d like input from all of our people on what collective actions we can take, so please email us with your ideas.

As always, if you are feeling worried or unsafe, I urge you to reach out to your manager or your HR partner to ensure we are hearing your truth. You can also reach out to me and other members of our senior team, or to the IPG Alertline if there is any incident of bias you need to report. And once again, I want to remind you of the many resources available to you that can help support you through these trying times.

All of us at IPG are committed to doing everything we can to come together and unite our communities, to help heal both our bodies and our spirits.

Michael

Comments

Advertisement
Advertisement