5 things you can do to build antiracism into your brand in 2021
In this blog post, we’ll look at how you can build antiracism into your brand and move beyond internal anti-racism education (which is key) to external antiracist actions.
2020. What a year. There are so many ways we could sum up the year. In fact, the President of the Oxford Dictionaries put it brilliantly when he said
“It’s both unprecedented and a little ironic – in a year that left us speechless, 2020 has been filled with new words unlike any other.”
And one of those words, well technically a phrase, is BLACK LIVES MATTER. Let’s be clear, the Black Lives Matter movement and hashtag did not begin in 2020. Anti-racism activists and campaigners had been organising under this rallying cry for years. But in 2020, the movement gathered renewed and global momentum and saw an unprecedented groundswell of support and activism, as one man’s unjust murder hit headlines across the world and people, organisations, companies and brands rose up to stand together and say “Black Lives Matter”.
For some brands, this is where it stopped. In June, with a black square and a cursory statement reiterating a vague policy around diversity and inclusion. But many didn’t stop here. Many brands realised it was time to take a stand. Time to be anti-racist versus not racist and actively take meaningful and tangible action to tackle racism in all of its forms. Ben and Jerry’s were a fabulous example of this. Also (somewhat surprisingly given their track record on organisational culture) Uber made some tangible and longlasting commitments early on.
And if that’s you, that’s great. You may have even started building anti-racism into your brand.
(And if you’re not sure what that means, this article I wrote for charity sector magazine, Third Sector may help).
Don’t leave your anti-racist actions in 2020. Don’t sit back and think your work is done, because you’ve done anti-racism training. Or held an event. Or even just published a black square. Instead make antiracism part of your brand in 2021 and beyond.
Here are 5 things you can do to build antiracism into your brand in 2021.
This is THE most important action that organisations can take and even if you have already done a comprehensive listening exercise, don’t stop listening to, and for lived experiences of racism amongst everyone you interact with. And remember, listen not to respond, but openly and actively as you seek to understand and learn.
Be transparent about where you are now and the work you need to do. Then share that commitment publicly. Brands are often scared to do this in case they don’t achieve what they have said. But here’s the thing – once you commit, you are WAY more likely to achieve what you set out to do. Not just because you are more accountable (although that’s really important) but because people will see what you’re trying to do and understand where and how they can help. And that help often further accelerates your progress. Result!
It can be tempting not to talk about or share what you’re doing because it’s a work in progress or you haven’t got all the answers. But when it comes to antiracism, we’re ALL a work in progress, and it’s imperative that we are open about progress. It holds us accountable and means that others can benefit from your learnings and experience. So share, share, share (but don’t be smug about it).
As with point 1, once you’ve listened, involve people with lived experiences of racism in your planning, your thinking and in coming up with ideas and action plans. Don’t be tempted to do it alone – you need to do this in collaboration with, not for or to people. And please, please seek expert help throughout. Like us.
Do take time to celebrate your progress within your organisation, and with the people you’ve co-created with too. This is not about self-congratulation as there is ALWAYS more to be done, but simply acknowledging the hard work so far. A great way to do this is by lifting up and promoting the voices and positive stories of the people with lived experiences of racism around you.
Still unsure of what to do next? This blog post might just help you identify what’s holding you back.
Fear of getting it wrong? Don’t know where to start? Don’t worry. If you take the actions above, you’re at least coming from the right place. And to be clear, there is no organisation doing this perfectly. No one has all the answers. That’s not the point. It will take time, we will make mistakes, and that’s ok.
This is about creating structural and systemic change. Uprooting established systems of racism and starting again. And brands have a MASSIVE role to play in this.
So stay humble, stay open and commit.
So that this year, we can keep up the momentum, energy, and movement for true change.
Let’s do this!