As protesters take to the streets in Louisville, Kentucky, over the killing of Breonna Taylor, one of the city’s major corporations, Yum! Brands, has a plan to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in its own ranks while giving a boost to black entrepreneurs and students in Louisville who want to pursue a college degree.
Yum! Brands is the parent company of Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell. The company announced this month that it will invest $6 million over five years in programs “that tackle inequality and uplift black students, educators, entrepreneurs and social change agents.”
The Louisville commitment is part of Yum! Brands’ larger Unlocking Opportunity Initiative, announced in June. For that initiative, the company has pledged $100 million “to promote equity and inclusion, education and entrepreneurship for employees, frontline restaurant teams and communities around the world.”
“At Yum!, we know our brands, frontline restaurant teams and communities are much stronger when we have diverse people, voices and ideas at the table to tackle our biggest challenges,” said CEO David Gibbs. “With this expanded effort in Louisville, we are pleased to increase our partnership and investment in experienced local leaders and institutions that are already working to address the complex challenges of inequality.”
Yum! Brands has pledged to support organizations like Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), which will establish a fund that provides grants to Louisville-based black entrepreneurs and nonprofits, as well as the Academy of Music Production Education and Development (AMPED), which focuses on technology skills, workforce development and business creation.
Yum! Brands will also support a program developed by Dr. Kevin Crosby, president of the historically black Simmons College of Kentucky, to recruit and train more black educators for the Jefferson County Public Schools system, and Evolve502, a nonprofit that provides college scholarships for people in underserved communities.
Additionally, the company announced a $3 million pledge to social-justice efforts by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union and unnamed Louisville-based social-justice nonprofits, along with national organizations identified by general managers at Pizza Hut, KFC, Taco Bell and The Habit Burger Grill, including the Boys & Girls Club of America, the Equal Justice Initiative and the Children’s Bureau.
In Louisville, Yum! is also co-chairing the Greater Louisville Inc.’s Business Council to End Racism, a cohort of local business leaders developing policy recommendations to tackle racism and build a stronger, more inclusive local economy. The Yum! Brands Foundation will continue to support Dare to Care Food Bank, Metro United Way and Fund for the Arts in Louisville.
Meanwhile, Pizza Hut has created a new position—Chief Equity Officer—and hired Chequan Lewis to fill the role. Pizza Hut said Lewis’ appointment in late August was a “critical first step in delivering on the company’s commitment to advance equity and create meaningful change.”
Lewis joined Pizza Hut four years ago as a director on the Pizza Hut Legal team. Most recently, he led the Pizza Hut Express division as a senior director. Prior to joining Pizza Hut, he was a legal associate with Baker Botts, LLP, clerked for the U.S. Department of Justice, and led national employment and diversity recruiting efforts for McMaster-Carr Supply Company. He graduated from Howard University and Harvard Law School.
In a Yum! Brands website post in June, Gibbs said the company will “increase representation of black, Latinx, people of color and women in its executive and management ranks, franchisees and suppliers”
“This builds on our initiative to advance women in leadership,” Gibbs wrote. “In the coming months, we will set targets that inspire and hold us accountable for aggressive progress over time.”
“Difference should not stand in the way of opportunity,” Gibbs said in the post. “Every day our brands have the privilege to serve and employ people of every race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, age and background. As such, we remain steadfast against all forms of discrimination and inequality—both conscious and unconscious—that thwart opportunity for our people. We are deepening our investments in efforts to produce equity, fairness, inclusion and belonging inside our company, across ALL aspects of our brands and throughout our franchise businesses.”