About six weeks ago, on the heels of Blackout Tuesday, Marikaye wrote about addressing social change as a business. Around that time, brands around the world said things like, “We’re listening. We’re learning. We plan to do better.”
It inspired me to see so many individuals and brands speak up for racial justice, but it’s even more critical to continue to do the work every day moving forward.
Not only is it simply the right thing to do, but brands who prioritize social change will attract more job seekers and customers. In fact, 78% of Americans want companies to address pressing social justice issues, and 87% will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about, according to a 2017 study from Cone Communications.
So, if you or your brand spoke out in June and promised to “do better,” what changes have you accomplished so far? How will you take your commitments and turn them into lasting social change?
Do the work, internally.
Anti-racism actions are incredibly crucial behind the scenes in your organization.
Many companies made public pledges in June to diversify their workforces and executive boards. These are commitments that take time, but there are other ways to enact social change more quickly within your team.
As a leader, you have the opportunity to help your entire team grow together. In addition to your hiring practices, you can add an anti-racism curriculum to your onboarding and ongoing training to benefit all employees.
What does this look like?
Implement anti-racism resources in your onboarding package. Typically, onboarding is when you’d cover your discrimination policy with new hires, but you can take it a step further to drive home your anti-racism policy.
It can’t stop with onboarding. For genuine social change, the conversation with your employees needs to be never-ending.
This might look like a quarterly or biannual anti-racist reading assignment like “How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi or “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness” by Austin Channing Brown. Or you could ask your team to listen to a podcast like NPR’s Code Switch.
Whether it’s books, podcasts, articles, movies, TV shows, or videos, endless resources can spark quality anti-racist discussions. Pick what works for you and your team and get started!
There are also many anti-racism educators teaching companies new practices around the globe. Do some research and consider hiring someone to help you design your new onboarding program and ongoing learning opportunities.
Do the work, externally.
Once you’ve made some progress internally, use your brand’s platform to contribute to social change as well. Besides merely being transparent about your internal efforts, identify what your brand provides to the world and how you can infuse anti-racism messages and actions into your product or service.
For example, if you’re a content marketing company, your product is content. You should actively think about ways to keep the anti-racism conversation going in everything you create.
What does this look like?
Spotlight the voices of activists, speak out against injustices, and draw attention to social actions your audience can take. If you are committed to being an anti-racist business, these messages will not detract from your brand. Instead, they will show your audience that you are committed to the values you promised.
But you don’t have to be a content company to create change. The WNBA wrote “Black Lives Matter” on their new court, and the NBA wrote it on their jerseys. The Dixie Chicks changed their name to The Chicks. Food brands are replacing their racist mascots. The list goes on.
In fact, AdAge has been keeping track of how brands use their voices to respond to racial injustice. You can read through their article for more ideas and apply them to your own business.
Budget for reparations.
Reparations is defined as “compensation for historical crimes and wrongdoings with the aim of remedying injustices and helping specific groups of people or populations to prosper.”
Black people in the U.S. never received reparations from the government after we abolished slavery. While there is a new bill in Congress to correct this, there are ways you can contribute as a company.
It’s not enough for businesses to announce donations when #BlackLivesMatter is a trending topic in the news cycle. To enact actual change, you need to make your financial commitments ongoing as well.
In her June blog, Marikaye shared a link with places to donate. That article has since grown into an expanded resource guide with several ways to contribute.
When you plan your budget for next quarter and next year, do what you can to set aside funds to donate on an ongoing basis: monthly, quarterly, or annually. We must give back to companies who are doing the work every day.
Remember, your efforts don’t have to be perfect right away. But, six weeks after making public promises for change, you should be actively implementing those changes.