Purpose at Work: Essential Brand Lessons From The #StopHateForProfit Movement

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Consumers, employees and investors expect brands to contribute to building a better world, but will that influence the world’s largest social network to change its policies?

On June 17th, a coalition of social justice groups including the NAACP, Color Of Change, Common Sense, ADL and others asked brands to pause advertising on Facebook and Instagram for the month of July. The #StopHateForProfit campaign focused on influencing Facebook to shut down groups and individuals that use the platform to amplify racism, anti-semitism and other forms of discriminatory messaging.

North Face was the first company to pull ads. They were followed by brands like Adidas, Best Buy, Clif Bar, Denny’s, Ford, Honda, Levi’s, Mozilla, Patagonia, REI, SAP, Unilever, Verizon, Walgreens and many others.

On July 14th, #StopHateForProfit also released a letter to Facebook, restating their demands. The letter was endorsed by over 100 nonprofits including the Sierra Club, NRDC, GLAAD, and Code Pink.

#StopHateForProfit Recommendations:

In a list of recommendations, the coalition asked Facebook to hire a C-suite executive responsible for monitoring “products and policies for discrimination, bias, and hate.”

#StopHateForProfit insisted that Facebook undergo and publish an external audit “of identity-based hate and misinformation.”

Companies don’t want their ads shown alongside hateful messaging. Accordingly, the group requested Facebook refund advertisers for ads shown next to content that has been removed because it violates Facebook’s terms of service.

The advocacy group included pleas for the company to shut down private and public groups actively supporting white nationalism and discrimination.

The coalition prompted Facebook to offer individual support for victims of hate speech. It also submitted several other requests relating to Accountability, Decency and Support.

Facebook’s Response:

On July 24th, Facebook responded to #StopHateForProfit with a point by point account of what it’s doing or considering to make internal changes. Of note, the social network highlighted its Civil Rights Taskforce. Created in 2019, the Taskforce “meets monthly for the purpose of surfacing, discussing and addressing civil rights issues.”

Facebook claims that it is working with a law firm, Relman Colfax, to develop related training for employees. It says it will hire a VP to take the lead on civil rights issues. The social media behemoth says that it will undergo a third-party audit, which will likely take place in 2021.

Allegedly, Facebook uses AI and human oversight to monitor both public and private groups for hate speech and discrimination. While it does not shut these groups down after a single offence, if repeat offenses are flagged it will terminate a group.

The social platform refused to assign one-on-one agents to respond to hate speech and harassment victims. It will consider providing references for people seeking help. Facebook also said that it does not currently have a system in place to monitor ads that have been shown alongside removed content.

The Way Forward:

Since the boycott month passed, some advertisers including North Face, Adidas and Puma are back to running Facebook and Instagram Ads. They feel that Facebook’s response shows progress and potential.

VF Corporation, which owns North Face, said it will hold frequent meetings with Facebook to monitor progress on hate speech and continue to assess the decision to advertise on the platform.

Other corporations didn’t feel as compelled by Facebook’s reaction. Dove, Coca-Cola and Beam Suntory continue with the boycott. “We have yet to see sufficient progress to change our approach and continue to hope this collective action helps catalyze positive change and accountability,” reported a Beam Suntory representative.

Despite the collective response from some of the world’s largest ad buyers, Facebook did not see a significant drop in July ad revenue. Its stock price, however, did drop by about 8% after major advertisers announced they would not return to buying ads.

Advertisers’ initial response to pull millions of dollars in ad spending resets what are table stakes for businesses today. There is now business-to-business pressure to act on purpose. While the push to stop ‘hate for profit’ continues, the movement offers valuable lessons to purpose-driven leaders.

Key lessons For Brands from the #StopHateForProfit Campaign

Prioritize purpose: To succeed in today’s marketplace you must consider purpose in financial decision-making. Ironically, social media platforms help consumers learn and spread information about businesses. Silence is action. Profiting from sensationalism around hate, discrimination and prejudice is complicit.

To prioritize purpose you must not only seek opportunities to create positive change in the world, but also put an end to divisiveness and harmful behavior. The takeaway here is that it’s not worth profiting in the short term from activities that go against your brand and its consumers’ values.

Implement diverse leadership: While you may have the best of intentions, cultural insensitivity and unconscious bias can be difficult to identify and confront if you are not attuned to them. It’s essential to incorporate diversity and inclusion into your hiring, internal policies and external communications. It’s critical to keep your perspectives open and monitor your own business to ensure you don’t perpetuate or profit from discriminatory practices.

Demonstrate accountability: You might feel uncomfortable or confrontational when addressing issues of bias and discrimination in your own organization. While they may be sensitive issues, it’s better to address them head on, rather than let sleeping dogs lie. To avoid further scrutiny, the company must develop a way to be accountable.

Lead With We: When you lead with a mindset that values and serves all stakeholders equally, you give your brand the power to inspire that same wide set of stakeholders to build your brand and its impact with you. To achieve that you must be responsible for your actions and how your customers use your products and services. It is not acceptable to turn a blind eye to hate, harassment or discrimination for the sake of profit. The cost to people’s lives is real and meaningful and no amount of profit makes it justifiable.

Written by

CEO We First Inc, author NYT's bestseller We First, strategic corporate consultant and trainer, father, Australian, optimist.

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