‘Speak up. Do something’: How Madison businesses can play a role in social justice reform

MADISON, Wis. — As the demand for change around the country becomes more pertinent, Madison-based company American Family Insurance is encouraging more businesses to be a part of the social justice reform movement.

“The issues we are dealing with are challenging and complex,” said the company’s community and social impact officer Jim Buchheim. “Meaningful change is going to happen if we do get more and more organizations engaged in it.”

Buchheim has worked toward that change through American Family Insurance for years.

“I grew up in a predominantly non-diverse community, non-diverse schools,” he said. “I’ve needed to adjust my lens, my own knowledge and understanding as a leader in a diverse organization.”

American Family Insurance posts on its website about the need for social justice reform. The company has also posted about the Black Lives Matter movement, the shooting of Jacob Blake, white privilege, etc. It’s something the company has done for years to help make diversity a priority. Buchheim said he’s never seen more customers demanding companies to take a stand.

Alex Gee, a prominent Black figure in Madison and the founder and President of Nehemiah, agrees.

“I feel that business leaders have the opportunity to use their brand, their resources, their staff to challenge systems, to challenge the lack of change and to put pressure on lawmakers and policymakers,” Gee said.

Gee thinks we ask Black people how seeing things like shootings and protests make them feel without asking white leaders the same questions.

“What do you feel when you saw that man get shot 7 times? What do you feel about the speed at which law enforcement responded? Those types of questions need to be asked,” Gee said. “What do you want to do? How do you want to use your voice to challenge policy makers and political officials to change this reality.”

Gee hopes having those conversations inspire business leaders in positions of power to do something, whether that’s through politics, money or simply being a powerful voice.

“I think even if it starts small or slow, that’s better than nothing at all,” Buchheim said.

“Speak up. Do something. Work together. Don’t let apathy set in because then all of this violence wins and we can’t let that happen,” Gee said.