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A message from Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning on racial tensions across the country

I want to follow-up on the public statement the Southern Company Management Council issued one week ago regarding our struggle for racial equality across this nation. I want to be very clear about what this company stands for and what our short- and long-term response will be.

Racism, in any form, is abhorrent. It cannot and will not be accepted, ignored or dismissed. It must be confronted head-on across our society as it is within our company. The time has come to uncover and destroy systemic racism in all its forms.

We find ourselves in a critical and historic time. While we could be secure in knowing that justice and equality are embedded in Our Values – the ethical and moral compass that centers us – ultimately, we must realize that there is more work to be done and that we are being called to do it.

This week, we asked employees to share their voice to have it be heard by our organizational leaders as we consider additional solutions moving forward. I thank those who have taken the time to present their thoughts and feelings.

I reviewed the feedback with the Southern Company Management Council earlier today. We agreed that it is so important for all of us to keep the conversations going and listen to one another. Out of the different themes that arose, one question stands out:

How do we make sure this time is different?

Our response will be centered on four ideas.

  1. We fully support those peacefully demonstrating, speaking out and protesting injustice and demanding change and we will not be distracted from the importance of that message by those who seek to inject violence and fear into the conversation;
  2.  We will fully engage in our local communities – our own, internal community in particular – across all levels and locations of our system; 
  3. We will not treat this as an event, but rather a long-term continuum of engagement centered on listening, talking and learning in order to achieve sustained institutional improvement; and
  4. We will leverage all forms of available resources to advance racial justice as well as inclusivity for all, regardless of their differences, while promising to incorporate past and present lessons to foster a society where all feel welcomed, valued, respected and engaged.

As good as we are – for example, Southern Company ranked No. 14 on Forbes’ 2019 list of America’s Best Employers including No. 1 among industry peers, No. 1 among Atlanta-based companies and No. 1 in Georgia – we can be better.

To make our company better, I am holding our leaders accountable in fostering an inclusive environment where open dialogue is encouraged among our employees in order to create a stronger culture that is inclusive for all.

Further, we will engage our many employee councils, groups, and organizations in renewed conversations for the purpose of better understanding the significant dimensions of diversity, race, social identity, and acceptance. We will revisit these strategies to affirm they are working and, if needed, make the appropriate adjustments to do better.

For our communities, earlier this year we announced a $50 million multi-year initiative to provide students attending historically black colleges and universities with scholarships, internships, leadership development, and access to technology and innovation to support career readiness. We are examining this initiative to see how it might be expanded with the express purpose of making a difference in race relations.

We will continue to engage and financially support various efforts and will increase and initiate support of the National Urban League, a non-profit working to rid racism and injustice while promoting equality, and the Equal Justice Initiative, a group working to end mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the U.S. while protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people.

The goal of our community engagement has always been and always will be to make the communities better because we are there.

Today is not the end of our story. While others may choose to avert their attention, we are committed to this effort.

We can do more. We can learn more. We can listen more. We can reflect more. And we can love more.

I’m proud to be on your team.