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An Important Conversation

This week, we held a company All Hands meeting to review ongoing business performance and other company matters. We’ve taken the approach these past months to lean even further into our practice of transparency, and share (perhaps even over-share) details on all the goings on internally and externally. The response to this transparency, even in the face of difficult news, has been overwhelmingly positive.

All of us at Sovrn have been watching, and I have no doubt that some have been actively participating in, the protests following the murder of George Floyd. I’ve been personally moved by both the peaceful and powerful protests and the long-standing inequities they represent.

In our company meeting this week, with 200 fellow Sovrn employees, I made the decision to talk about these inequalities and what we each individually and collectively can do to make progress on real change. What I said was unscripted, and while many of the ideas on how to make progress are not new, I felt that if I could inspire even one person more to act, then that would be well worth it.

We talked about the “ovarian lottery,” a concept I lifted from Warren Buffet. The idea here is to put yourself inside your mother’s womb some 24 hours before you’re born. You have no idea where you’ll be born, what religion your family practices; you don’t know your gender, sexual orientation, or the color of your skin. Ask yourself this: what kind of world do you want to be born into? I imagine it’s one that’s fair and equal regardless of what you look like, where you came from, or how much money or privilege you have. And while we may never reach a place of total equality, that equality is the goal. We can do things today that move us a step closer, together. If we can at least agree on the ultimate goal then we can disagree on the details of how to get there without being disagreeable.

Each of us can be part of the discussion in our own way. For some, that may be joining the protests, for others it could be summing the courage to talk about our thoughts or experiences. There isn’t one right way to have the conversation, we just need to be having it. Here in the U.S. we have the right to elect our representatives—not just our national leaders. More importantly, we should exercise our voting power in choosing our local leaders. 

Businesses have a responsibility to not only join the discussion, but to act. We need to keep the conversation going; don’t let it slip back into the shadows. We can make a difference—in our company and in our communities.

— Walter Knapp, CEO

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