About 81% of Southern Company employees participated in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) training in 2022, according to a letter to stockholders sent by outgoing Southern Company CEO and Chairman Thomas Fanning on Friday.

Southern Company is the publicly-traded parent company of Alabama Power, serving 1.5 million electric utility customers.

Fanning boasted in a letter, "for the seventh consecutive year, we have been recognized as one of the Top 50 Companies for Diversity by Diversitylnc." 

"Some 81% of system employees participated in diversity, equity and inclusion development in 2022," Fanning said. "Across the enterprise, employee resources groups, councils and networks bring employees together to cultivate inclusion and a healthy work environment." 

Fanning is being replaced by Chris Womack, who was appointed president of Southern Company and elected as a member of the Board of Directors of Southern Company, effective Friday, according to a press release in January.

"As Chris Womack takes the reins as President and CEO, I have never been more enthusiastic about the future," Fanning said in the letter to stockholders. "And even as a new generation of leaders emerges, and we move boldly forward with new innovations, we remain committed to the ideals that have characterized our company for more than 100 years. Customers remain at the center of all we do, and our mission continues to be bigger than our bottom line."

A recent analysis by Opelika-Auburn News and the Dothan Eagle found Alabama's average monthly residential electricity bills were the third-highest in the nation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The state falls behind Hawaii and Connecticut.

Alabama Power issued four rate hikes in 2022, approved by the Alabama Public Service Commission. Commissioners blamed the most recent increases on President Joe Biden.

The Alabama Republican Party passed a resolution in February stating that DEI policies — which proponents claim promote the representation and participation of different identity groups — do not fulfill their alleged purpose. Instead, they "have actually stifled intellectual diversity, prevented equal opportunity and discriminated against anyone who dissents from these policies," according to the resolution. The resolution was specific to abolishing DEI policies and bureaucracies in public universities and institutions.

Southern Company's Board of Directors said in a letter to stockholders on Friday that "we recognize that Southern Company's talent is one of its greatest strengths, and the Company has a strong track record of employee engagement and retention. Workforce sustainability topics, including DE&I, are regularly discussed by the Board and its committees."

"As we think longer-term, we believe that a diverse, equitable and inclusive corporate culture brings broader perspectives, greater innovation, richer thinking and wider cultural bandwidth," board members wrote. "We also recognize the importance of racial equity and inclusion within the communities Southern Company serves, and the Company's Moving to Equity initiative is regularly discussed by the Board and its committees. At a time of transformation in our industry, we believe that companies with a clear sense of purpose combined with a culture that embraces change, engages in healthy debate and encourages innovation will be the most adaptable."

According to a list of Southern Company's "human capital pillars" included in the report to stockholders, they're "committed to a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace in order to best serve the diverse communities in our footprint." 

"Our diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) efforts promote an inclusive and actively anti-racist culture as we strive to create a workplace where everyone feels welcomed, valued and respected, and all groups are well-represented, included and fairly treated," the report states. "Our strategy for recruiting, hiring, retaining and developing employees includes a deliberate focus on DE&I. We integrate continuous feedback from employees to refine our commitments and actions. We have adopted new commitments to attract, engage, include and retain a diverse workforce. Looking ahead, we will continue to integrate DE&I competencies into talent development offerings and advance our expanded HBCU engagement and strategic diversity recruiting initiatives."

The Southern Company system and its charitable foundations are committing $225 million through 2025 to "advance racial equity and social justice in our communities," according to the report.

Southern Company's annual stockholder meeting is May 24th in Pine Mountain, Ga.

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