Executive at top U.S. accounting firm details plan to combat racism, says workers 'want action'

Key Points
  • Tim Ryan, the chair of PwC U.S., released the company's plans to combat racism on Thursday. 
  • Its employees "are angry. They're upset. They're exhausted, and they want action," Ryan said on CNBC's "Closing Bell." 
  • "They want a heck of a lot more than just saying, 'We condemn the killing of George Floyd or many others,'" he added. 
PWC's Tim Ryan on company's commitment to fight racial inequality

Tim Ryan, the chair of PwC U.S., on Thursday released the company's plans to combat racism, telling CNBC that employees are insisting real progress gets made. 

"People are angry. They're upset. They're exhausted, and they want action,"  Ryan said on "Closing Bell." "They want a heck of a lot more than just saying, 'We condemn the killing of George Floyd or many others.'" 

The death of Floyd, who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on the unarmed black man's neck for nearly nine minutes, has ignited nationwide protests in recent days. Demonstrators are demanding police reform and other steps to address racism in the U.S.

Ryan detailed PwC U.S.' plans in a LinkedIn post earlier Thursday. Among the components: one week of paid time for its 55,000 employees each year to volunteer at nonprofits, a two-year fellowship program for some employees to work on policy issues that combat racial injustice and discrimination, and donations to four social justice organizations. The company also will match employee contributions up to $1,000. 

Additionally PwC U.S. is creating a diversity and inclusion advisory committee, consisting of employees across all levels of the company, that will help build out its larger plan to address racial inequality, according to Ryan's post. 

Ryan told CNBC he has heard from thousands of employees in emails, texts and other conversations in the last few days following Floyd's death. "As I read them, it was very clear that our people wanted a say in how we shape our future and instead of being defensive and talking about all the stuff we've done in the past, we're going to listen to our folks," Ryan said. 

The company also will share each year progress on the diversity and inclusion plan, including "the good and the bad and room for improvement," Ryan said, adding that the transparency can be "a major catalyst for action."  

Ryan said the American business community and government policymakers must work together to address racism and the deaths of unarmed black people by law enforcement. He said PwC U.S.' new fellowship program was designed with that collaboration in mind. 

"What is so disappointing is we are in the moment right now in 2020 with George Floyd and many others but unfortunately we know these events and these killings happen over and over again," he said, that Botham Jean, who was fatally shot in 2018 by an off-duty Dallas police officer, was an accountant for PwC. Amber Guyger, the now-former officer, was convicted of murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2019

"I'm proud about how our country is rallying now, but what we really need is a sustainable solution, and that is going to take business and government working together," said Ryan. 

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