EBONY's 2022 Power 100 Corporate Citizen Award Honoree Maurice Cooper, a veteran marketer and DEI advocate, is no stranger to the hard work required to turn workplaces into safe places for all. As Senior Vice President, Guest & Brand Experience Marketing at the Target Corporation, he has successfully garnered connection with the Black community through engagement initiatives that prioritize our collective experience. Additionally, he has been able to do this with the help of the company's $1 billion annual investment.

Below, Cooper shares his insight on sustainably building inclusivity in corporate America and the work he's done with Target.

EBONY: Throughout your career, how have you prioritized the creation of an inclusive workplace?
Maurice Cooper: At Target, cultivating an inclusive culture is at the core of who we are as a company, and this is a belief I’ve held throughout my career. This starts with seeking opportunities to create safe spaces for everyone. This is especially important for team members of color where these safe spaces unfortunately come too far and few between. Creating a space where you can be vulnerable and show up as your authentic self is both invaluable and meaningful. Nurturing these opportunities for connection—both within underrepresented communities where team members may bond over shared backgrounds and lived experiences—and at the enterprise level, where members of varied communities and backgrounds can learn with and from each other all contributes to creating an inclusive workplace. Ultimately, inclusivity is not the job of any one person or department—it’s the responsibility of all team members at every level of an organization. I’ve tried throughout my career to contribute to building cultures where all team members can feel seen, safe and valued.

What are some ways in which Target has broadened its relationship with Black consumers?
In the summer of 2020, we established the Racial Equity Action and Change (REACH) committee to accelerate our diversity, equity and inclusion strategy for our Black team members and guests as our data revealed we had significant work to do to better support and serve the community. Building on this commitment, in October 2021, Target and the Target Foundation announced an investment of $100 million through 2025 to help fuel economic prosperity in Black communities across the country. We’re doing so by supporting local, Black-led organizations to ensure that resources are specifically designed for the communities they serve. Since then, we have proudly launched our Target Scholars program, in partnership with the UNCF (United Negro College Fund), to support students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities with scholarships. As part of this work, we also committed to spending more than $2 billion with Black-owned businesses by 2025 to enhance our retail operations and shopping experience as well as help our Black-owned vendors grow and successfully scale their businesses in mass retail through our Forward Founders program.

What are 3 tips that are most important to remember when working toward an inclusive workspace?
Rally the full organization around the mission of inclusivity. Drive it from the top and touch every part of the business. We have experienced the most lasting change when teams from every corner of the enterprise are brought together and empowered to create the change we wanted to see. Care for and invest in your employees—they are your company’s most important investment, full stop. It meant everything to me to join a company and a team that understood the very first priority in rebuilding trust and connection with a community is care. That could mean something like Target’s Dream to Be educational assistance program, which is one way we create an inclusive workplace where team members can build meaningful careers and have success at every level. Make quantifiable commitments and then hold yourself accountable both with measurement and transparent communication. At Target, we know our work is never done, but we’re making progress. We’ve increased promotions of people of color by 62%, reduced turnover by 33% and, now, 1 in 3 officers at Target is a person of color.

How do you Move Black Forward?
Moving Black Forward is a critical imperative for me professionally, but it is also deeply personal. As I mentor and coach people of color, the primary service is to let them know they are seen, supported and not alone—that there are others who share their lived experience, struggles and successes. When I think about supporting future talent, my mind goes to my own teenage kids, and what I know they will need to be successful: spaces where they can be vulnerable and show up as their authentic selves, and be encouraged to maximize their full potential. Black moves forward when bold vision is allowed to meet intentional action.