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Hudson’s Bay Foundation Readies $30 Million Diversity, Equality Investments

Hudson’s Bay Company has announced a new commitment to support diverse communities.

On Monday, the Canadian retail company’s charitable arm, the Hudson’s Bay Foundation, launched a social impact platform dubbed Charter for Change. 2021 represents the 351st  anniversary of Hudson’s Bay being granted its royal charter, or patent, in England, and it has decided to mark the milestone with a pledge to promote racial equity. HBC owns Saks Fifth Avenue, along with department store’s off-price channel, Saks Off 5th, and its own eponymous line of stores.

Over the course of the next decade, the foundation will donate $30 million to organizations working toward inclusion with three specific areas of focus: education, employment and empowerment. The group is kicking off its work with contributions to five charitable partners.

Indspire, a national charity that invests in the education of Canada’s Indigenous people, will benefit from financial support for its post-secondary education, student mentorship and professional development courses for the community’s future educators. “This generous support will provide First Nations, Inuit and Métis students an opportunity to pursue their dreams,” Indspire president and CEO Mike DeGagné said in a statement.

The Hudson’s Bay Foundation will also invest in bolstering Black Youth Helpline’s Stay-in-School initiative, which works with students, school districts and families to help keep children engaged in education. Founder Barbara Thompson said the nonprofit is on track to help 128,000 individuals by 2030. “Now more than ever, there is a need to support, empower and extend a hand toward Canada’s most disadvantaged youth,” she said, and the funding would build on the charity’s initiative to help youth “remain and succeed in schools.”

The group will act as the sole title sponsor for two career training programs at the CEE Centre For Young Black Professionals, which aims to upskill 30 participants each year and help them find gainful employment in the fields of costumes and styling as well as cyber security. Agapi Gessesse, the group’s executive director, said that the current climate has made it difficult for many to secure positions, and that the funds would be used to create jobs in the entertainment and information technology sectors.

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The CPAC Foundation, which helps immigrant professionals to upgrade their skills, obtain licenses, gain employment and develop leadership capabilities, also advocates on issues affecting Chinese Canadians. “The recent surge of anti-Asian racism is hurting our communities deeply,” said executive director Andi Shi. “The Hudson’s Bay Foundation grant comes at just the right time to help us address this urgent issue,” and will boost the group’s capacity to “empower the most vulnerable populations in a practical manner.”

“We are honoured to work with Hudson’s Bay Foundation to use the power of sport to tackle systemic barriers,” said Tanya Mruck, executive director of the MLSE Foundation, the charitable arm of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which helps support Ontario’s youth through sport. Hudson’s Bay Foundation will be a leading sponsor of the organization’s Change the Game initiative, which aims to help fight for racial equality in Canada by leveling the playing field for all kids.

Hudson’s Bay has also undergone efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion within its own ranks by creating a DEI leadership position to advise the executive team and create a strategy for the future. The company has launched four new employee resource groups, and signed the BlackNorth Pledge as a commitment to tackling unconscious bias and anti-Black systemic racism in January. There are plans to unveil a complete DEI program in late May, the group said, including the goal of having all associates participate in Indigenous cultural awareness training by year’s end.

“Racial equity is one of the most urgent issues facing society, and through Hudson’s Bay Charter for Change our goal is to create tangible and measurable change that makes a difference in the lives of Canadians,” said Iain Nairn, president and CEO of Hudson’s Bay. “With our own 350-year company history that in the past included discrimination and inequity, we have a responsibility to take action and drive progress in creating a fair and equitable Canada for all.”