Purpose At Work: How Big Brands Must Show Their Support For Social Justice

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The murder of George Floyd has sparked an upswell of protests throughout America and the world. People of all ethnicities are showing support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Citizens are demanding police reform and an end to racial injustice.

Many brands have spoken out about their support for Black communities and racial equality. While making a statement is important, brands must ensure their words are backed with real actions and impact. Consumers are increasingly skeptical of purpose washing. They penalize companies that jump on the bandwagon, damaging their reputations.

Social justice starts within your own organization. You cannot say that you stand with Black Lives Matter without addressing your own hiring or corporate culture, as well as any conscious or unconscious biases in your leadership. You must carefully consider your external communications. It’s critical to listen and engage in dialogue with those directly affected by racial injustice to ensure your contribution is both respectful and impactful. Then can you move forward by supporting and/or taking actions that support long-term, systemic solutions.

Here’s how 10 brands responded to George Floyd’s murder and the racial justice protests

Peloton: The in-home fitness training company pledged half a million to the NAACP legal defense fund. They also encourage community members to take workout classes with black instructors, educate themselves and donate money. “We refuse to sit back and remain idle while racism runs free,” the brand writes on its website.

Lego: In addition to contributing $4 million to “organizations dedicated to supporting Black children and educating all children about racial equality,” the toy-maker is pulling advertising for police and White House Lego sets.

Disney: One of America’s favorite media companies for children and adults is pledging $5 million to nonprofits that “advance social justice.” Disney’s first allotment of $2 million will go to the NAACP.

Nike: The world’s largest shoe brand released a spot with the message “For once, don’t do it.” The advert encourages people to stand up for social justice and fight for equality, tagging the instagram post with #UntilWeAllWin. This ad is a continuation of the company’s dedication to social justice. It previously illustrated support by releasing a campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick after he took a knee in protest of racial injustice.

Ben & Jerry’s: Ice cream and social justice are staples of the company’s DNA. Ben & Jerry’s made a public statement in support of Black Lives Matter. In a social media post, the business reminded consumers of its commitment to racial justice after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson years ago. Additionally, Ben & Jerry’s released a statement focused on dismantling white supremacy. They call upon the president to denounce white supremacy groups that support him. They encourage congress to approve of H.R. 40, which would release funds to study the impacts of slavery from 1619 to the present. They support a bipartisan group aimed at “ending racial violence and increasing police accountability.” And they implore the Department of Justice to reinvest in the Civil Rights Division.

L’Oreal: In response to the protests, the cosmetics company committed $500,000 to groups such as Black Lives Matter, Color Of Change and the NAACP. The brand will also be instating what they call a “Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board.” The board will implement initiatives like “Employee Engagement & Internal Change,” “Community Engagement & External Change” and “Company-wide Education.”

Netflix: The media behemoth made a public statement on Twitter, saying, “To be silent is to be complicit. Black lives matter. We have a platform, and we have a duty to our Black members, employees, creators and talent to speak up.” The streaming platform is highlighting movies about race and Black culture, like Ava DuVernay’s 13TH. While showing sentiment is a step in the right direction, some critics say that speaking up is not enough. Making financial contributions and promoting more black content creators would catalyze greater impact.

Amazon: The eCommerce giant made a statement in support of “the fight against systemic racism and injustice.” Amazon is known for paying warehouse workers and other unskilled laborers, many of whom are Black, low salaries. While it’s important to take a stand, there has been much skepticism about the authenticity of the statement.

Sephora: Although the makeup company pledged over $1 million to organizations fighting for racial equality, they asked consumers to give up company points to trigger a donation worth less than if customers redeemed them for store credit. While making a statement and a financial donation is purposeful, the brand diminished their contribution by trying to save some money.

Kentucky Fried Chicken: In a social media post the company stated, “KFC rejects racism and brutality against Black communities everywhere. Black Lives Matter.” They went on to say that they will do more but did not specify how. Some commenters questioned the authenticity of the statement, especially in light of their support of the current administration.

In the context of such complex and raw issues as racial injustice and police violence, brands must back up their purposeful statements with tangible actions. Social justice is a deep-seeded issue that requires listening, understanding and participation from people of all backgrounds. It extends from protests in streets to thinking and behaviors inside corporate offices. To truly become part of the solution, brands must hold themselves accountable and partner with organizations best-equipped to bring lasting social justice and racial equality to others.

Written by

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

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