7 ways brands can tangibly support #BlackLivesMatter

    Posted on 19-Jun-2020 12:38:49


    The past few weeks have seen #BlackLivesMatter protests sweep the world. It has kick-started a significant social awakening around racial injustice, and many brands, charities and organisations have felt the immense pressure to respond. 

    As expected, many have published statements of support (on their websites and social media), but swiftly received backlash from the public demanding more tangible action and fewer words! 

    Versiti decided to track some of these statements so that you can more easily view and comment on them, and follow progress over time as the organisations behind them seek to make real, positive changes to the world around them. 

    Depending on your own position, these might provide inspiration to craft your own response and action plan. We hope that it’s a place you will bookmark and revisit time and again, as media attention dampens and the public is left having to take the lead in demanding accountability and change.

    To kick things off, here are seven ways that brands and organisations are committing to support #BlackLivesMatter, each with clear plans for action. 

    1. Pledging financial support

    Several brands have put their money where their mouth is by committing to donate to racial justice and equality causes. This is one of the most concrete ways of showing support to the movement. 

    • YouTube was one of the first brands to make a definitive commitment, stating they would donate $1 million to social justice initiatives.
    • Glossier also committed $1 million, half of which will go to organisations combating racial justice and the other half will be used as grants to Black-owned beauty businesses. 
    • Nike announced it was donating $40 million to promote social justice, racial equality and education in the U.S. 

      2. Offering pro bono services

      Of course, not all brands will have millions of pounds lying around to donate. So some have decided to offer their services pro bono to causes that will tangibly improve the lives of Black people.  
    • MoJo Supermarket, a creative agency, is offering to provide a substitute (free of charge) for Black creatives or strategists who are feeling overwhelmed and unable to work in the current climate. 

    • Similarly, Design for Black Lives is offering free design work for #BlackLivesMatter organisers and for all Black people, indigenous people and people of colour. 

      3. Changing internal hiring practices

      Many brands love the halo of diverse marketing without valuing the need to be internally diverse. Some brands are awakening to the ethnic employment and pay gap and are making internal changes that reflect their stated values around diversity, inclusion and equality. We think a lot more work needs to be done in this space, including by focussing on the wider supply chain - but it’s a step in the right direction.
    Adidas has pledged that 30% of new hires will be Black or Latinx. 

    • ITV’s This Morning show is currently looking to hire a Black presenter amidst the increased scrutiny on racial equality. They do not currently have a black presenter on any of their programmes and need to prove a real commitment to diversity that goes beyond tokenism. 

    4. Paid days off

    As Mojo Supermarket’s offer suggested, for Black and minoritised communities in the West, the past few weeks have felt particularly overwhelming. Shenequa Golding incisively articulated the unrealistic expectations placed on Black people to maintain professionalism despite the lockdown, the murder of George Floyd, the #BlackLivesMatter protests, the racist counter-protests in London, and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on ethnic minorities. There is a dire need for time and space to process, reflect, and support vulnerable groups right now. 

    • General Assembly announced that they would be giving their staff and community a paid mental health day on 5th June.

    • Juneteenth is observed annually by many African-Americans on 19th June to mark the emancipation from slavery in the US. Many companies, including Twitter, Square, Vox Media and Nike, have announced that they are making this a paid company holiday. Twitter is also working to identify which days to use as a company holiday to recognise the end of slavery in other countries.

      5. Standing up to racism

      Some brands have problematic histories when it comes to racism. It has been difficult for these brands to shake off their pasts and brand associations. In instances like this, calling out racism from their base is a simple yet seismic action. 
    • To put it plainly, Nascar is a brand that has a racist history. The Confederate flag is a symbol of slavery and racism and is a common sight at Nascar circuits. A few days ago, Nascar took the bold move to ban it from all future events. This is historic for a brand whose core demographic, despite being white, report victimisation and feel left behind. It is a bold and commendable move by a brand that has more to lose in the short-term by taking a stance on the right-side of history. Bravo.
    • Brits love tea and they love #solidaritea even more! A far-right activist, Laura Toweler, tweeted her approval that Yorkshire Tea had not yet supported #BlackLivesMatter. The brand’s response was immediate and scathing:
      PG Tips then took their message of solidarity to a whole new level: 

    6. Pass the mic

    This moment requires much humility from brands and organisations that have for so long participated in, and contributed to, the systemic inequalities experienced by Black people. Brands should pass the mic to Black people whose voices have been ignored for so long. 
    • #ShareTheMicNow was inspired by the unjust truth that “When the world listens to women, it listens to white women.” The campaign saw Black female activists use the platform of 40 white women with large social media followings - people like Courtney Kardashian, Elizabeth Warren and Ariana Huffington - to foster conversations about racial justice.

    7. Research 

    Minoritised people are rarely heard in research. As we have said in earlier posts, “This is hard to justify at the best of times. In the midst of a global pandemic, it is plainly unacceptable. More than ever, research is needed to document their experiences and respond to their needs.” 

    Our team has helped many organisations to understand the needs and aspirations of Black audiences, consumers and employees: from Channel 4 to Jaguar Land Rover, from the RSC to Estée Lauder, from Morrisons to the Greater London Authority. 

    Versiti continues to amplify the voice of those rarely heard in research and policy - and, after more than 20 years in this space - we continue to learn. Every single day. Because facts on the ground are complex, the situation is fluid and events can dramatically change virtually all aspects of life, in different ways, for different segments in each black community. 

    If you want to do something meaningful to contribute to a more equal and equitable world but are unsure how and don’t want to put a foot wrong, we will be delighted to have a chat, answer any questions you might have, and explore options for your brand to meaningfully engage with change, while remaining true to your identity and purpose.

    Written by Hirra Khan Adeogun

    Topics: Connect & Communicate, Communication Strategy, Equality, #blacklivesmatter

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