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Friday, October 23, 2020

Merck CEO Ken Frazier Calls On Corporate America To Help Stabilize Society

Merck CEO Ken Frazier believes it is “critically important” for the private sector to look beyond individual business needs and take action for the good of society during this time of crisis. 

“When you look at the vast devastation across our society caused by the pandemic itself, caused by the economic freefall, racial and other social inequities that it has unmasked. I think it really does show that the private sector has an important role to play in stabilizing our society,” Frazier told attendees at the Forbes JUST 100 Virtual Summit. 

Frazier, one of four Black CEOs at the helm of the world’s 500 largest publicly traded companies, has led Kenilworth, New Jersey-based Merck since 2011. While the company is busy developing two Covid-19 vaccines and one antiviral, Frazier says the pandemic has also forced a reckoning regarding “huge disparities” in social justice, healthcare and the economy. 

One of the biggest ways in which companies can help level the playing field is to reexamine hiring practices, especially for entry-level jobs, says Frazier. The requirement of a college degree, which can largely be symbolic for some jobs, is a huge barrier for more than 1.5 million Black Americans aged18-32 years who have only a high school education, he says. 

Frazier also advocates for corporate America taking an active role in protecting the political process and preserving democracy. “We don’t question whether we participate in the political system when it’s to our benefit,” says Frazier. Companies, he says, should also lobby for better education, healthcare and social justice.

“We should be lobbying for better law enforcement, we shouldn’t just be reacting when you have something horrible, like the George Floyd situation where no one can look away,” he says. “Access to justice is an issue that we should care about, because we use the court system to enforce our company’s needs.” 

Jobs, healthcare and justice need to be accessible to everyone—from the person who can’t afford a lawyer to the country’s largest corporations, says Frazier: “What makes me worry ultimately, is when people don’t believe in our institutions, and they don’t believe in our system, they don’t believe there’s fundamental fairness, then I think our society begins to come apart.”

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