Emerson pledges $200M over 10 years for education

March 29, 2022

Emerson launched a new chapter in its philanthropic commitment to U.S. communities where it operates with a pledge to devote $200 million of its charitable contributions over the next decade to help address the vital issue of education inequity.

“We see a critical need to focus our corporate philanthropy on education inequities in our hometown of St. Louis and the other communities where Emerson operates,” said Lal Karsanbhai, Emerson’s president and CEO. “Inequities in the educational experience of children lead to inequities in life. Access to a quality educational experience is a crucial component for building a better future for all.”

With this announcement, Emerson is launching into its next phase of giving, building from its philanthropic foundation of the past 50 years. Emerson’s commitment to education equity will focus on programs or initiatives targeting children from infancy through 12th grade, with an emphasis on early childhood and student services in under-resourced communities.  

“Empowering every student with access to quality early education and academic resources, regardless of his or her race, gender or zip code, will build incremental opportunities and progressive change,” Karsanbhai said. “Our vision is to make our communities a better place to live, work and thrive for all residents by focusing on the education inequities that prevent all youth from achieving their full potential.”

Plans for this 10-year commitment include partnerships with established organizations that are working to address education inequities in the St. Louis area. Two initial partners that Emerson will support are the Urban League of Metropolitan Saint Louis and The Opportunity Trust. 

Emerson and the Urban League, which have a long-standing partnership, are in discussions to identify priority needs for the nonprofit’s Head Start & Early Head Start program, which promotes the school readiness of infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children from low-income families.

“Providing access to quality education is one of the Urban League’s core strategies,” said Michael P. McMillan, the president and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan Saint Louis, Inc. “With Emerson’s focus on early education and commitment to our Head Start program, we are closer to ensuring more children in our community are kindergarten ready, and thereby closer to progress and growth in St. Louis and beyond. We can’t see the change we need in our communities until every child has access to opportunities beyond the scope of his or her zip code.”

With The Opportunity Trust, Emerson’s funding is focused on increasing the number of St. Louis third graders reading on grade level, with an aggressive goal of doubling the number students reading on grade level by 2027.

“Just 15% of third graders in St. Louis city are reading at a proficiency level, an alarming indicator that the majority of these students are at significant risk of not graduating from high school, and therefore are unlikely to be prepared for a career or college,” said Eric Scroggins, CEO and founder of The Opportunity Trust. “We are excited to have Emerson’s support and investment in research-based strategies that aim to increase the number of third graders reading at grade level, setting these students up for significantly higher likelihoods of secondary and postsecondary success.”

Akberet Boykin Farr, vice president of diversity and social responsibility at Emerson, manages the Emerson Charitable Trust and is overseeing its transition to a focus on education equity. Emerson will fulfill all current pledges and provide a gradual step-down for organizations currently receiving Emerson funding but whose missions fall outside the company’s new giving focus.

In fiscal 2021, Emerson and the Emerson Charitable Trust made contributions totaling $24 million to nonprofit organizations and educational institutions across the United States and for the company’s scholarships and teacher recognition programs. Over the past 50 years, Emerson has made nearly $750 million in charitable donations nationwide.