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Herbert Smith Freehills is supporting the launch of the Black Equity Organisation (BEO), a national and independent civil rights organisation founded to advance justice and equity for Black people in Britain, in collaboration with Allen & Overy, Ashurst, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Slaughter and May.

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.

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.

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."

Alison Brown, executive partner at Herbert Smith Freehills, said: "The only way to remove systemic racism is to challenge it by holding organisations and individuals to account and engaging in meaningful ways to knock down the barriers that block economic and social mobility. Launching our own 10 Actions for Change was one step on our journey towards racial equity and we are proud that, by helping launch the BEO, we are also part of the wider legal industry's sustained effort to tackle discrimination."

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