Fortune 500 companies can play a ‘big’ role in addressing poverty, says Robin Hood CEO

In the Democratic presidential primary, progressive Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has criticized large companies for exacerbating wealth inequality — but the head of a top anti-poverty nonprofit says top corporations can play a significant role in addressing it.

In a newly released interview, taped on March 3, Wes Moore — the chief executive of New York City-based philanthropic organization Robin Hood — said Fortune 500 companies can play a “big” role in alleviating issues of poverty and homelessness.

“The role of Fortune 500 companies is big, and broad, and vast,” says Moore, whose organization was founded by hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones and distributes between $150 million and $180 million each year to over 250 nonprofits.

“It’s not just about making sure that we’re both hiring people, and paying people fairly, and doing all that stuff, which is baseline,” he adds. “But there is also a role about how can they think creatively about their voice, how to think creatively about utilizing all the other assets that they have in place.

In particular, Silicon Valley — home to prosperous tech giants Google (GOOG, GOOGL), Facebook (FB), and Apple (AAPL) — has drawn scrutiny for a worsening homelessness crisis. A survey last May by government officials in surrounding Santa Clara County found a spike of 31% in the homeless population over the preceding two years.

On the opposite coast, in New York City, where many large companies and banks are headquartered, the number of homeless single adults has risen 143% over the past 10 years, according to advocacy group Coalition for the Homeless.

Moore called on major corporations to use their platforms to raise issues like poverty and forward solutions for addressing them.

“Making sure that those things that you’re speaking about are not just the things that are going to impact your quarterly earnings reports, but impact the community, impact your shareholders and the people who aren’t yet shareholders,” says Moore, whose organization provides grant recipients with businesses expertise in addition to funds.

“Making sure that the ways you’re using your voice and making sure the ways you’re using your influence are going to have a larger societal impact that actually creates a level of fairness and parity and equity in our large society,” he adds. “That’s how they can use their voice.”

Salesforce (CRM) CEO Marc Benioff, whose company is headquartered in San Francisco, donated $30 million last May to research the causes of homelessness. “The world needs a North Star for truth on homelessness,” Benioff said at the time.

Moore made the remarks during a conversation that aired in an episode of Yahoo Finance’s “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.

In 2017, Moore took over as CEO at Robin Hood. Before his current role, Moore worked on Wall Street, served as a captain in the army, and spent time under Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the White House. From 2014 to 2017, he led BridgeEdU, an organization that seeks to make higher education accessible for low-income students.

Wes Moore, the CEO of New York City-based nonprofit Robin Hood, appears on Influencers with Andy Serwer.
Wes Moore, the CEO of New York City-based nonprofit Robin Hood, appears on Influencers with Andy Serwer.

Moore said his organization welcomes support from many benefactors, including wealthy individuals.

“I don’t have the luxury to say, who should and should not be involved in this conversation,” he says, adding that poverty is a problem for which all Americans share responsibility.

“I need to make sure that everybody is involved in this conversation because all of us have a level complicity for the fact that we have this problem,” he says. “So if that’s the case, everybody needs to be [saying], ‘oh, I’m trying to find a solution to it.’”

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