Cendant’s sales and marketing. He says the firm has implemented a five-prong diversity program over the past 18 months and looks forward to more progress. Although the firm received good ratings in the charitable giving category in last year’s report, it received "poor" or "needs improvement" ratings in nearly every other area. Cendant’s original grade in 1998 was a C+, but the NAACP gave bonus points to firms that entered into economic reciprocity pledges and/or successfully responded to all survey categories. This pushed Cendant ahead of other firms. Anderson says, "We’re proud of the B grade we received this year and we’re working to get it better."
Other companies continue to sidestep the issue of diversity and social responsibility. In regard to the C grade MCI/ Worldcom Inc. received in the NAACP’s 1998 Report on the Telecommunications Industry, the firm’s executive director of corporate policy and communication, Jamie DePeau, initially indicated that the firm took the NAACP’s analysis very seriously. "We were ranked ninth in a list of 17, and that’s not good enough," she contends. Although DePeau insists MCI/Worldcom is "stepping up efforts in many areas to reach out to women and minority-owned vendors," she refused to back up her statements with clear initiatives or statistics, asserting, "We are not able to respond specifically because of competitive reasons."
Frontier, a national long-distance, local and Internet data transmission company, which reaches nearly 70
percent of U.S. businesses, was anxious to provide statistical data to dispute the F grade it received in last year’s NAACP report. It contends its failing grade was based on its inability to respond and was not a reflection of the firm’s failure to commit to diversity. "The information was unavailable at the time due to a number of recent acquisitions," argues Jim Collins, Frontier’s vice president of corporate communications. Collins did admit that this issue was not communicated to the NAACP until after Frontier’s grade became public, and says, "We should have let the NAACP know our position sooner." Although the company provided black enterprise with some very promising statistical data-16% of Frontier’s work force is minority; 33% of the firm’s board is minority; 46% of corporate giving is directed toward minorities; 940 of the firm’s suppliers are minority and 19.2% of the firm’s newly hired employees were minority in 1998-they were unable to give clear figures on what proportion of these efforts specifically benefit African Americans.
The concept of making companies accountable to African Americans is certainly not a new one, and proponents like the Rev. Jesse Jackson have been on a mission since the civil rights movement of the late 1960s to ensure that companies demonstrate corporate reciprocity.
Today, Jackson’s Wall Street Project (see "The Wall Street Project: What Does It Mean for You?" October 1998) purchases the stocks of companies cited as offenders by various individuals. Concerns about diversity issues are voiced by corporate shareholders, a status Jackson believes offers real clout. "Buying stock and going