It’s no secret that major corporations are often wary of addressing race, especially during a polarizing political environment exasperated by a global pandemic and contentious election year. Corporations tend to be afraid of offending their customers and associating their brands with sensitive subjects such as race. Yet, 71% of Americans want business leaders to address racial inequality in the U.S. according to data intelligence company Morning Consult. We are witnessing a global outcry following the death of George Floyd — an unarmed Black male — and the demand for brands to act is higher than ever before.
Racial injustice against the Black community has reached its tipping point, fueled by years of systematic oppression, repeated incidences of police brutality and political unrest. Now, every brand must strategically assess which side of the issues they intend to stand on. While the current situation presents relevant opportunities for corporations and brands to address social injustice — race relations is an incredibly complex topic that needs to be approached with strategy, authenticity and organizational credibility.
Brands must focus on being allies and advocates during this issue and future situations of racial injustice — because this isn’t a one-time, seize the moment occurrence. This requires a committed, cross-organizational approach that is implemented from the C-suite to frontline employees to make a real, meaningful impact.
To successfully and authentically make an impact, you must consider the following steps:
Acknowledge The Situation: Concisely address the social injustice at-hand, across internal channels and external platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. Further reinforce to employees, investors and stakeholders that you understand the challenges impacting people of color within your organization and among your customers, partners and community.
Take Authentic Action: Communicate the efforts your organization is taking today and the long‐term commitment you will implement. Thoughts and prayers for the Black community are baseline, consumers need to see financial investments, company-wide programs and community initiatives.
Align Your Values With The Issue: If you champion diversity and inclusion in your workplace now is not the time to be absent in the face of racial injustice. By aligning corporate values with what your customers care about most, you can build a sense of loyalty and a deeper sense of brand connection during the protests.
Recognize Your Past Mistakes: Several corporations expressing George Floyd support have had complicated relationships with race in the past (i.e. Starbucks, YouTube), and they are acknowledging those mistakes so they can participate in the conversation today. Failure to address these issues often results in consumer’s questioning your brand credibility and brand authenticity as it relates to social justice.
Reinforce Your ‘Brand Say’ and ‘Brand Do’: To many people, the support of corporations and brands fall short without action, often in the form of funding or other substantive resources. Reinforce your ‘brand say’ and ‘brand do’ by investing in a social justice organization that will positively impact the Black community.
Your actions should not be a short-term fix to the current situation, but a long‐term investment by your organization. From the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to Color of Change, below are reputable and credible organizations to help you be an ally in the fight now and beyond.
• Advancement Project: A next-generation, multi-racial civil rights organization. The organization uses innovative tools and strategies to strengthen social movements and achieve high-impact policy change. Join the fight here.
• Black Lives Matter: The nation’s largest, influential organization focused on the acknowledgment and accountability for the devaluation of Black life at the hands of the police. The group is determined to develop sustainable solutions that affirm the prosperity of Black lives across the country. Learn more here.
• Black Visions Collective: Black-led, Queer and Trans centered organization whose mission is to organize powerful, connected Black communities and dismantle systems of violence. Learn more here.
• Center for Policing Equity (CPE): The leading organization dedicated to police reform in high-risk and marginalized communities. CPE leverages advanced analytics to diagnose disparities in policing, shed light on police behavior, and build healthy relationships between police and communities. Read more here.
• Color of Change: The nation’s largest online racial justice organization. The organization works with decision-makers in corporations and government to create a “more human and less hostile” world for Black people in America. Learn more here.
• NAACP Legal Defense Fund: The leading legal firm fighting for racial justice. Today, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) joined 385 other organizations, assembled by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, in sending a letter to congressional leadership requesting swift and decisive action in response to recent police killings. Read more here.