7th July 2020.
Hannah Fellerman and Suhanya Saysso
I hope you're all well and enjoying the summer!
Welcome to our seventh article of our re-launched blog.
This month's article will be part two of a two-part series, talking about the topic of accountability. Today we are discussing accountability in relation to and surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement.
Part one was last month’s article and if you haven’t checked it out yet please do!
If you would like to contribute to our blog, please email us with the subject “guest writer” to email@example.com with some detail about yourself and your writing experience (all experience levels welcome).
Take care and enjoy this month's article!
Black Lives Matter and Accountability
The tragic deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd amongst others at the hands of police enforcement and armed White residents has turned everybody’s gaze to the social and systemic inequality towards Black people and People of Colour (POCs). The Black Lives Matter movement has opened the discussion around unconscious bias, and how we as a society move forward to deconstruct the unhealthy desensitised behaviours, that have become societal norms. As we begin to return to “normalcy” (post-COVID) discussions around this subject are essential now, more than ever, in every level of society.
The global pandemic has given us the opportunity to reflect on these issues, and identify that systemic racism and injustice towards the Black community isn’t exclusively an “American” issue. All across the Western world, we have seen people unite over the pain that this community is feeling and has been feeling.
This article will look at what social accountability looks like for businesses, corporations, others, and how these companies are keeping themselves accountable.
The sense of urgency to create change has been re-ignited with the help of social media. It has acted as a great tool/outlet during the pandemic. Housebound, we have been forced to absorb what our screens are showing us whether we like it or not. This has helped to accelerate momentum for the BLM movement globally.
Businesses have taken to social media to express their support through “brand activism” for the BLM movement, and other issues that have reared over the past few months.
You may have seen black squares and declarations from companies stating their support for the Black community, and in some cases, oaths of what they will do better in future. In response to this, consumers have also taken to social media to voice their concerns with their favourite brands, holding them accountable on issues such as marketing, advertising, and diversity within the company.
“Brand Activism consists of business efforts to promote, impede, or direct social, political, economic, and/or environmental reform or stasis with the desire to promote or impede improvements in society.”
Consumers and employees are waiting to see how brands will take action on this issue. Companies such as Disney, Nike, and Facebook that have donated millions to anti-racism causes are being questioned about their own diversity statistics.
It is public knowledge that a good portion of Fortune 500 companies lack diversity within positions of power and influence.
“More than half of FTSE 100 companies have no ethnic minority board members and only around 3 percent of the most powerful, prominent 1,000 people in Britain are from ethnic minorities, according to the research.”
In 2019, BP, also known as the British Petroleum Company, ranked number 7 on the Global Fortune 500 list. According to their US statistics, 22% of their leaders are from Ethnic minorities.
In 2020, the FTSE 500 reported that out of 500 CEOs, only four were Black, all of whom are men.
What these statistics tell us is that a huge amount of work needs to be done within many major companies to address the inequality of representation, and the messages being sent out to their consumers and service users. In some cases this might mean hiring more people of colour, training and development and more importantly, focussing on creating a healthier internal work culture. As consumers, we are looking for action. The notion of “Brand Activism” can get lost behind an image, without seeing physical and actionable advocacations for change.
We wanted to highlight two great examples of progressive business activism that have stood out to us.
Corporations doing their part
In 2016, Accenture was the first tech company to publish their employee diversity statistics with a detailed breakdown of gender and ethnicity workers in the US. This type of transparency is particularly important for corporations to address, as it acts as an accountability statement. Accenture declared that by being transparent with their statistics, they have been able to build trust with their clients and employees, measure progress, hold themselves accountable, and create an open dialogue around collaboration and connectivity. Programmes were launched to help employees at all levels develop within the company to the next stages. Accenture made a plea back in 2016 to launch programmes that focus on improving pool statistics in leadership for African American, Hispanic, and Veteran employees. By the end of 2019, Accenture vowed to have the entire workforce complete mandatory unconscious bias training, and inclusive leadership training. Starting an open conversation in itself was an extremely effective move, especially within the Tech industry, where the demographic is predominantly White and male.
Accenture have won numerous awards for their efforts in diversity and inclusion including being named among the top 500 companies for diversity and inclusion from Refinitiv, “Best company for multicultural women” award for five consecutive years, has been included in “Bloomberg Gender-Equality index” for three consecutive years, and Diversity Inc’s top 50 companies for diversity for 14 consecutive years
Although they’ve had a head start, Accenture has displayed great leadership and cultural awareness in identifying the importance of having a diverse workforce. Not only do they have a team dedicated to driving change, but they also host “I&D Circle”, an online forum where employees can engage and express thoughts and ideas to improve inclusion and diversity within the company.
Today, Accenture have also put out their statement of support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Seeing the level of detail and dedication to Inclusion and Diversity, gives us confidence that they are sincere in their plea for positive inclusive change.
If more companies were transparent with their statistics and mission to make a change, consumers would not feel the need to have to seek out the answers for themselves.
Ben and Jerry’s:
Now owned by Unilever, ice cream moguls Ben and Jerry’s have used their platform and products to raise awareness as a part of their mission and values. As a part of their mission statement, to “make the world a better place”, the founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, used their platform to promote social consciousness and social justice. One example of this is the Ben and Jerry’s Foundation (founded in 1985), that gave 7.5% of their annual pre-tax profits to local community projects.
Over the years, Ben and Jerry’s have released flavours in conjunction with real social issues, helping to raise awareness. Today, you will find more information about their company values (as shown on their website https://www.benjerry.com/values/issues-we-care-about). In 2016, Ben and Jerry’s founders were arrested at a “democracy awakening” protest. Shortly after, the Black Lives Matter movement was established. At the time, Ben and Jerry’s released a statement of support on their website, and published articles on reparations for Black Americans, systemic racism, and the effects of slavery. In September 2019, the flavour “Justice Remix’d” was released, dedicated to Criminal Justice Reform. In addition to this, their website has links to articles to learn more about this issue, a petition to sign, as well as information about the supporting charity “The Advancement Project National Office.” In September 2019, more than 105,000 signatures were recorded on their website in support of this campaign.
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, Ben and Jerry’s flooded their social media outlets and website with the slogan “Silence is NOT an Option”. Following this was a heavy statement with a four step plan that vowed to eradicate white supremacy. The brand uses powerful infographics and videos such as the ones below on their social media to educate followers on topics such as defunding the police, systemic racial inequality and criminal justice reform. Their efforts to make this issue seen and heard, shows awareness that this is not just a “Black community” issue.
Their consistent efforts to put out educational content has gained a lot of media attention, both positive and controversial. It has allowed exposure to a wider demographic over social and journalistic media.
What we’ve learnt here is that although there are many companies showing support for the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s important for their efforts to reflect it in their marketing. Many of these Fortune 500 companies use “diversity and inclusion” as one of their values, but fail when it comes to overall statistics regarding leadership and internal development for minorities (Black and POCs).
Accenture displayed vulnerability and honesty when posting their statistics back in 2016. The statement of action that has followed, is reassuring and is especially important for the Black community and POCs that are interested in joining a company that is action orientated in creating a healthy work culture that supports every walk of life. Unconscious bias training and inclusive leadership training is hugely beneficial as it helps to educate the team on personal prejudices, biases and what privilege looks like. This level of introspection allows for uncomfortable conversations that are greatly needed to unpack toxic behaviours, therefore, making room for interventional change.
What is respectful about Ben and Jerry’s is their action and levels of engagement with consumers. As an ice cream company, one could argue they have no place in social and political activism in general. But they have persisted with their core values and acted upon it year after year. As consumers, we admire Ben and Jerry’s honesty and action to make a change in keeping this conversation alive.
Racism exists, whether we talk about it or not. But talking about it is the first step to eradicating it forever, or to rid our cultures of it as much as possible. We must then follow up this conversation with action, if we want to see permanent change. On the whole, to unpack societal biases and discrimination is going to take strength, consistency and effort to break through. At an individual level we have a responsibility to do what we need to educate ourselves in recognising our own privilege. But on a business level, companies must recognize the importance of taking the action to get the ball rolling, actions like what we have seen above.
Hopefully more companies adopt action in the way that Accenture and Ben and Jerry’s have (and we do know that is starting to happen!), so that the conversation of progression for the Black and POC communities will feel consistent and promising for future generations.
At Ezelle, we value diversity and inclusion but have identified areas in which we too, could do more.
What Ezelle are doing:
- Celebrating and sharing achievements and social contributions of POCs through quotes and promoting businesses on 'Share Sunday' and social IG + FB stories in general
- Talking about this issue
- Including POCs in campaign shoots and videos
- Collaborations with POCs in the creative industry
Ezelle is committed to the following:
- Including more diversity in models we work with for our campaigns
- Working with and collaborating with more POCs on future projects
- Delivering workshops on the importance of diversity
- Delivering workshops for POCs who have less access to resources
- Donating profits to institutions helping POCs
At Ezelle, we welcome any feedback or suggestions. As a business we do not shy away from having open discussions about bettering the lives of others. It is one of the reasons why Ezelle was launched. Please contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM us through IG, FB or Twitter @ezelleofficial.
What you can learn and actions you can take
How can you hold companies accountable?
- Ask questions: “why isn’t there Black or POCs representation in your marketing?”
- Respond to social media posts with open and honest questions
- Do your research: Look at I&D (inclusion diversity) statistics for your favourite brands
- Look at how products are made? And where they are currently being sold
Now is the time to ask these questions! By holding brands accountable, we are able to differentiate between who is genuine in their plight for change and who are not. This type of consumer activism also allows us to use our power and influence via our voices. We’re all in this journey of change together. By respectfully speaking up, we can teach brands what needs to change, in order to avoid negatively affecting consumers and society as a whole.
Below is an example of communication between a brand and it’s consumer. The Canadian healthy breakfast delivery company, LiveHolos answers a question about their lack of representation of diversity and support of the Black community:
How you can help yourself
- Support businesses owned by POCs
- Support businesses who are inclusive of, support and celebrate POCs
- Educate yourself
- Educate others
- Hold companies accountable with your voice / social media platform
In a world that is constantly changing, we at Ezelle want to bring accurately formed opinions in the right format. We have used the term “people of colour” (POCs) in place of “black, asian, minority ethnic” (BAME) which is currently up for discussion, to represent non white ethnicities who may or may not be a minority depending on where they live in the world.
Hannah Fellerman is the founder of Ezelle, who started the brand to combine both design and social change as these are two of her biggest passions; you can read more on our about page.
Suhanya Saysso is a Workforce Analyst within the technology sector and is passionate about inclusion and diversity as well as changing the way professionals work together!
References and further reading:
- If Black lives matter, it’s time for true policy action and accountability (https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/june-2020/if-black-lives-matter-its-time-for-true-policy-action-and-accountability/), Celina Caesar-Chavannes
- Black Lives Matter: What can you do?, Hackney Citizen (https://www.hackneycitizen.co.uk/2020/06/09/black-lives-matter-what-can-you-do)
- Black Lives Matter: Do companies really support the cause? (https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200612-black-lives-matter-do-companies-really-support-the-cause), Fernando Duarte, 2020, bbc.com
- WHAT IS BRAND ACTIVISM? – (http://www.activistbrands.com/what-is-brand-activism) Activistbrands.com, 2020.
- The FTSE 100 Has More Ceos Called Steve Than From Ethnic Minorities.(https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/ftse-100-ceos-called-steve-ethnic-minorities-diversity-a8769006.html) 2020, The Independent
- Diversity And Inclusion | Sustainability | Home. (https://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/sustainability/people/diversity-and-inclusion.html) BP global, 2020.
- Meet The Only 4 Black Fortune 500 Ceos. (https://www.businessinsider.com/there-are-four-black-fortune-500-ceos-here-they-are-2020-2) Business Insider, 2020.
- Issues We Care About | Ben & Jerry’s (https://www.benjerry.com/values/issues-we-care-about) benjerry.com, 2020.
- Flavor Graveyard | Ben & Jerry’s (https://www.benjerry.com/flavors/flavor-graveyard) , benjerry.com, 2020.
- Introducing NEW Justice Remix’D Limited Batch! (https://www.benjerry.com/whats-new/2019/09/introducing-justice-remixd), benjerry.com, 2020.
- The History Of Ben & Jerry’s Progressive Politics (https://psmag.com/news/the-history-of-ben-jerrys-progressive-politics), Pacific Standard. 2020.
- En.wikipedia.org. 2020. Ben \U0026 Jerry's,(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_%26_Jerry%27s#Controversies)
- Why Black Lives Matter, (https://www.benjerry.com/whats-new/2016/why-black-lives-matter) https://www.benjerry.com. 2020.
- Silence Is NOT An Option, BLM 2020, (https://www.benjerry.com/about-us/media-center/dismantle-white-supremacy) https://www.benjerry.com, 2020.
- 7 Ways We Know Systemic Racism Is Real, [online] Available at: (https://www.benjerry.com/whats-new/2016/systemic-racism-is-real), benjerry.com, 2020.
- From Slavery To Mass Incarceration. (https://www.benjerry.com/whats-new/2019/08/slavery-to-mass-incarceration), benjerry.com, 2020.
- Corporate Donations Tracker: Here Are The Companies Giving Millions To Anti-Racism Efforts, Forbes, Togoh, I, 2020. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/isabeltogoh/2020/06/01/corporate-donations-tracker-here-are-the-companies-giving-millions-to-anti-racism-efforts/#6f2e0d1837dc)
- Accenture Tops Index Of World’s Most Diverse And Inclusive Companies, DiversityQ, (https://diversityq.com/accenture-tops-refinitiv-index-of-worlds-most-diverse-and-inclusive-companies-1507716/) Cole, C., 2020.
- Exclusive: Accenture Is The First Big Consulting Firm To Publish Race And Gender Stats,(https://fortune.com/2016/02/08/exclusive-accenture-is-the-first-big-consulting-firm-to-publish-race-and-gender-stats/) Fortune, 2020.
- Data.bloomberglp.com (https://data.bloomberglp.com/company/sites/46/2020/01/2020-MemberList.pdf)
- Accenture Earns Top Spot On Refinitiv Index Of World's Most Diverse And Inclusive Companies For Second Consecutive Year, (https://newsroom.accenture.com/news/accenture-earns-top-spot-on-refinitiv-index-of-worlds-most-diverse-and-inclusive-companies-for-second-consecutive-year.htm?_ga=2.108504258.1924683267.1594002418-2013983469.1594002418) Newsroom.accenture.com, 2020.
- 2020 Best Companies For Multicultural Women Winners,(https://www.workingmother.com/best-companies-for-multicultural-women-winners-2020) Working Mother, 2020.
- Inclusion And Diversity At Accenture, (https://www.accenture.com/us-en/about/inclusion-diversity-index), Accenture.com, 2020
- Inclusion And Diversity At Accenture, (https://www.accenture.com/us-en/about/inclusion-diversity/us-workforce/), Accenture.com, 2020.
- Awards And Recognition For Accenture, (https://www.accenture.com/ca-en/about/awards-recognition), Accenture.com, 2020.
- Innovative Thought Leadership & Trends Research, (https://www.accenture.com/ca-en/about/accenture-research-index) Accenture.com, 2020.
- Transparency, (https://www.ceoaction.com/actions/transparency/), CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, 2020.
- Refinitiv Global Marketing- Diversity and Inclusion Top 100 Companies, (https://www.refinitiv.com/content/dam/marketing/en_us/documents/reports/diversity-and-inclusion-top-100-companies.pdf) Refinitiv.com, 2020
- New Development Hub For Emerging Writers Of Colour Launched, Words Of Colour, (https://wordsofcolour.co.uk/new-development-hub-for-emerging-writers-of-colour-launched), Words of Colour, 2020.
- Linkedin.com, TO BE COMPLETELY SILENT, IS REALLY LOUD, (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/completely-silent-really-loud-nellie-borrero/?linkId=100000012714381), Nellie Borrero, 2020.
- Accenture Rolls Out Inclusive Leadership, Unconscious Bias Training For New Staff. (https://www.benefitscanada.com/news/accenture-rolls-out-inclusive-leadership-unconscious-bias-training-for-new-staff-111152) Benefitscanada.com, 2020.
All photograph based images used in this article are Royalty Free.