Law firms Allen & Overy, Ashurst, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith Freehills, and Slaughter and May have collaborated to assist with the development and launch of the Black Equity Organisation (BEO), a new national and independent civil rights group created to advance justice and equity for Black people in Britain.
The BEO is founded by some of the UK’s most influential Black leaders from the worlds of business, law, arts and social justice. In support of the BEO, together, the six firms provided seed funding and legal advice focusing on operational and governance issues and registration of the new organisation with the Charity Commission – all on a pro bono basis.
BEO’s Chair of Trustees, Dame Vivian Hunt said: “Our partner law firms were among the first organisations to join us in our journey. By devoting their time, expertise and passion they have played a vital role in the establishment the Black Equity Organisation (BEO). We look forward to deepening our partnerships with each of these law firms, and indeed others that wish to work with BEO, as together we work towards equity for Black Britons and broader society. We’d like to publicly thank these law firms for all that they have done.”
The board of trustees includes the actor, director, playwright and BEO board trustee Kwame Kwei-Armah, historian David Olusoga, shadow foreign secretary and Labour MP David Lammy, and Dame Vivian Hunt, a senior partner at McKinsey, among others, who will work in partnership with existing community and grassroots organisations to advance equity for black Britons on a larger scale.
Kwame told The Guardian ““It is not about just that moment ( George Floyd) – as a community, we have experienced the Windrush scandal, the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the more recent distressing Child Q incident. Our launch and existence is focused on creating the change that will ensure these stop happening.”
Initiated in 2020 in the wake of the global George Floyd protests and the spotlight on the racial inequalities for Black people, the BEO has been formed to take a data-driven approach in promoting economic, political and social equity for Black communities in Britain, in order to ensure equal opportunity for progress and prosperity. Along with the six core law firm supporters, the BEO has also has the backing of WPP and Sky amongst others.
In support of the organisation, the six law firms have provided strategic, financial and advisory support, as part of a commitment to work towards tackling racism in the UK.
Partnering with organisations in the private, public and non-profit sectors to address issues of structural racism, the BEO aims to tackle the six key mandates:
- Economic empowerment & equity of opportunity – to ensure Black communities are economically empowered and have the same professional and career opportunities as others.
- Education – to close the education attainment gap that exists between Black and White children in the UK throughout school and university, with knock-on effects in the labour-force.
- Justice, immigration & rights – to remove the sources of racial discrimination and eliminate disparities Black individuals experience within the criminal justice system.
- Culture, awareness & respect – to build broad public awareness of the existence of systemic racism in British society and its impact on Black communities to galvanize public support , outrage and commitment to eliminate sources of systemic racism.
- Health, wellness & care – to achieve health equality for all Black people in the UK including a healthy life and high-quality freely available health care, with equal outcomes irrespective of race.
- Housing and community – to address and remove the economic, structural and political barriers that contribute to the vast overrepresentation of Black people in rented and social accommodation and underrepresentation in privately owned accommodation.
Chinwe Odimba-Chapman, Executive Leadership Group Member and Global partner for Talent at Clifford Chance said: “The BEO vision and plan to advance equity for black communities in the UK is as necessary and urgent as it is compelling. Commercial law firms have the ability and resource to help highlight under resourced and underrepresented social matters, and we are glad to be able to be part of supporting such a pioneering organisation that will directly work towards tackling processes that encourage, perpetuate or permit systemic racial injustice.”