Five Ways Businesses Can (Actually) Support #BlackLivesMatter
As support for #BlackLivesMatter sweeps around the world, businesses have been put under increasing pressure to respond to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and the systemic oppression that perpetuates violence against the Black community. While many businesses have offered statements or posted black tiles on their Instagram feed, what are real, tangible ways that businesses can support the Black Lives Matter movement?
1. Acknowledge that businesses perpetuate and contribute to systemic oppression.
The first step to dismantling an oppressive system is to acknowledge and understand your part in it. While much of the focus of the Black Lives Matter protests has been on police brutality and the justice system in America, there are many ways that businesses, big and small, perpetuate racist and anti-Black policies.
Employment: the Black unemployment rate has been twice that of whites in the past 60 years, and studies have found that prospective applicants with white-sounding names are called back for interviews 50% more than those with Black-sounding names, even if they have identical resumes.
Entrepreneurship: Black entrepreneurs are at a disadvantage when it comes to starting a business because of structural wealth inequality. The median wealth of White families is over 20x that of Black households, and this lack of capital creates more risk for Black entrepreneurs and reduces their access to other funding sources.
Growth: A recent Brookings study found that although minority owned businesses are rated just as highly as white owned businesses, they grow more slowly and gain less traction, resulting in annual loss of $3.9 billion in potential revenue. And the impact of COVID-19 has caused over 40% of black-owned businesses to shut down - far more than other racial groups.
Whether knowingly or unknowingly, companies have created an ecosystem where it is harder for Black people to find work and create + grow their businesses. Businesses need to not only examine their own practices but understand how forces in their ecosystem are contributing to systemic inequality.
2. Commit to hiring, training, and promoting a diverse workforce.
Many companies want to hire a more diverse workforce, but are often surprised when their applicant pool is not as diverse as they hoped it would be. This article from Forbes and case study from Harvard Business Review have a few recommendations on how companies can partner with and invest in minority universities and organizations to create a pipeline of diverse talent.
But simply hiring diverse employees is not enough. Creating spaces for Black and minority employees to be seen, heard, and understood is important. This not only involves creating space for minorities but also an active education and invitation for non-minority employees to learn how to better support their Black colleagues. Hosting consistent dialogues and trainings to address and discuss diversity (that are well attended by leadership at every level) will not only help to educate your non-minority employees but also show your minority employees that this is a conversation you value and are consistently willing to support and engage with.
3. Support Black businesses.
While the push to support Black and minority owned businesses is particularly strong among consumers, making a commitment to supporting Black businesses as a business is equally important. Review your current vendors/suppliers and look for opportunities to purchase supplies or hire contractors from Black-owned businesses. As a company, your purchasing power is significant, and choosing to invest in minority-owned businesses is a great way to build connection and support the growth of these businesses.
4. Use your platform to amplify Black voices and issues — not just to participate in a social media campaign.
While participating in social media campaigns and raising awareness during critical times is important, businesses need to think beyond hashtags and trends when focusing on amplifying black voices through their platform and advocating for social issues.
Undoubtedly my favorite example of a brand using its voice to consistency champion for equality is Ben & Jerry's. They continuously use their platform (from social media to ice cream) to educate and raise awareness for issues related to healthcare, incarceration, and the justice system. While your company may not be able to roll out a new ice cream flavor based on a social issue, having clear and consistent communication about your values as a company are key.
In addition to communication from your company, use your platform to give the Black community the mic. Feature Black creators or entrepreneurs in your industry on your page, or create a campaign to highlight some of your favorite Black-owned businesses.
5. Develop partnerships with Black nonprofits and organizations and see how your business can meet their needs.
Another thing I've seen across many businesses are significant donations to major Black civil rights organizations. While this is commendable and much needed, what happens after the check is written?
Businesses need to work on developing strategic partnerships with Black nonprofits and advocacy organizations that enable them to consistently learn of and be aware of issues in the Black community and challenge themselves to find ways to support the champions of these issues. For example, a technology company might partner with Black Girls Code to provide financial support, have employees volunteer as mentors, or create a campaign to help raise awareness and funds for their work.
These long-term partnerships are much more helpful to nonprofits, and it again challenges businesses to consistently support, engage with, and listen to the Black community.
The fight for racial justice and equality is a marathon, not a sprint. If you've been inspired or challenged by the recent Black Lives Matter movement, figure out the tangible, measurable, and long-term ways you can join in the fight for justice.