Black Lives Matter—A Message to the Wharton Social Impact Community

Dear Members of the Wharton Social Impact Community,

In recent weeks, I have been shaken by the brutal killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor; the profound inequity and racism that we see in the news, on the streets, and/or up close in our daily lived experience; and the knowledge that, sadly, these acts are not new, isolated, or exceptional. I have been shaken, but not surprised.

WSII’s mission is to strengthen the role of business in creating a more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable global economy. In the United States, racism is the greatest barrier to inclusion and equity.

Racism – whether systemic or individual, conscious or implicit – undermines the hopes, opportunities, health, and lives of Black people and people of color across the U.S. Racial bias, we know from experience and from decades of academic research, is not just somewhere out there, it is right here – in our assumptions, our interactions, our campus and classrooms, our employment practices, our boardrooms, offices, and factories.

As a White person and a member of a generation that has failed to create sufficient change, I am committed to learning more and to doing more and to being anti-racist in my teaching, leadership of WSII, and my personal life. I am inspired by the many Wharton and Penn students who are committed to business, impact, and anti-racism and who are pushing Wharton faculty to teach about racism and injustice whatever our subject matter. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine the business subject – whether analytics, entrepreneurship, finance, health care, impact, legal studies, management, or marketing – where race and racism are irrelevant or inconsequential.

WSII is committed to growing and strengthening our research, student programs, and communications on business, finance, and racial equity. Below is a sample of projects underway, but I want to stress that there is more that WSII can and will do to promote racial justice and equity.

This past semester, we launched a new program of research on impact investing for racial equity. We have begun to gather data on debt, venture, and private equity funds that have made an explicit commitment to invest in companies founded by people of color and companies with a mission to provide goods and services to underserved communities of color. Look for a report of our findings – an initial landscape analysis – in the coming year.

This coming fall, WSII and Penn Medicine will pilot a new student program on impact investing for community health. Through the program, select students will gain training and experience in conducting due diligence on real, early stage companies that have the potential to strengthen the social determinants of health – including employment, housing, education, safety, and nutrition – among economically disadvantaged residents of Philadelphia.

Further, we will continue to use our Dollars and Change podcast to amplify the voices of impact investors, founders, and researchers of color who are working to combat racism in business and finance.

WSII is learning and listening and we are eager to hear from you, our alumni, students, colleagues, and friends. What do you want to see from us? What can we do together? How can WSII support anti-racism at Wharton, at Penn, and more broadly in business and finance? While we may not have all the answers, or the resources or expertise to implement every suggestion, we promise we will give each idea our careful consideration. Please email me at kleink@wharton.upenn.edu with your ideas and suggestions.

Thank you for joining us in this mission. Black Lives Matter.

Katherine

Katherine J. Klein
Vice-Dean, Wharton Social Impact Initiative
Edward H. Bowman Professor of Management
The Wharton School