The beginning of this decade has been tough. The global pandemic took millions of lives around the world and sparked an economic downturn that cost countless jobs. Meanwhile, the country was forced to grapple with racial and socioeconomic disparities following the police killings of unarmed Black men and women like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Following the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement last year, brands were forced to take a stance against oppression that continues to target Black people. While many companies quietly fund scholarship funds and social justice programs, this era of civil unrest required a different response. This moment wasn’t just about providing people of color with job opportunities and access to higher education, but rather confronting and taking action to combat systemic racism. This gave businesses an opportunity to help address the problem.
In this day and age, a brand must be bold in order to grow. Remaining neutral on issues of equality and equity will eventually prove detrimental in an America that is becoming more diverse and a world that is becoming more connected. But how do you do this in an authentic way when your brand has never truly taken a stance on any issues that don’t directly impact its bottom line?
First, your company must identify a problem(s) even if it doesn’t affect you or your traditional target markets directly. You know what the problem is, but how is it going to be fixed? While there may be one simple solution, the complexity of implementing that solution is a real challenge. For instance, food insecurity affected nearly 25% of American households in 2020. If we’re strictly looking at the population under 18, that’s 13.9 million young people who aren’t getting enough to eat. The issue has e come to the forefront during the onset of the pandemic. There is no simple fix. However, there is an opportunity for businesses to step onto the right side of history.
While much philanthropy is done in relative silence, the work required to shift culture is not just about money but also about raising awareness. Because businesses in America have a larger platform than most individuals, they can affect change on a greater scale. So, when Joe’s Local Cup-A-Joe has “75¢ of this cup goes to ___” printed on the cup sleeve, it raises awareness, starts conversations, and brings in business from those who want to support the cause.
The problem has been identified. The awareness has been brought. The support, pledged. What else is there to do? Follow through.
Since George Floyd was murdered in May of 2020, corporate America has pledged $50 million toward supporting racial justice. This money, of course, will not be dispersed all at once, but, in many cases, over the next decade, according to The Washington Post.
Additionally, many brands have worked to elevate Black and brown voices within their company, seemingly encouraging more authentic engagements that are not centered on making White people comfortable but, instead, truly seeking out diverse perspectives and people.
Today, as we imagine a better, more inclusive America, we expect the brands we support to have not only a financially philanthropic arm but a philanthropic arm with a lens specifically focused on creating a level playing field.
Our nation is maturing and, in order to evolve, you must lean into uncomfortable situations. Do it authentically and the return on your investment, while it might not be seen immediately, will be seen in that longevity comes with a supportive customer base.