As the clock struck midnight on the 1st of February, seemingly every major US brand posted on their social channels in celebration of Black History Month. Which in itself is a good thing. But whilst celebrating key diversity calendar moments clearly matters, it’s equally as important to celebrate and support these diverse groups all year round.
Times like these bring me back to 2020, when brands and companies were posting pledges, standing in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, adding meaningful hashtags to their posts and making public one-off donations. But almost two years on, the actions set against those posts and pledges have largely remained stagnant. Whilst there are brands out there striving to enact change internally and externally, other brands have made bold statements and then remained silent or acted in ways which contradict those statements.
So, how do brands become active allies throughout the year?
First and foremost, ensure that your own company has internal systems in place that support diversity, equity and inclusion. Consumers aren’t expecting brands to be perfect, but they are asking them to be transparent and accountable. If you aren’t asking yourselves the difficult questions and are issuing statements purely to drive brand awareness and sales, then you’re not necessarily showing up authentically. As Mahatma Gandhi once famously said: "Be the change you wish to see in the world."
Whilst it’s important to show all the efforts your company is making during said key diversity calendar moments, champion these activities all year round. Some companies host webinars, others spotlight certain employees. How can these assets and informative sessions be used throughout the year?
What partnerships does your company have? What influencers and external spokespersons does your company work with? Ensuring that your company doesn’t only talk the talk, but also walks the walk can help consumers feel supported, seen - and build their trust.
Most importantly, think back on what pledges you’ve made in the past year and ask yourself if you’ve actioned any of those statements. If not, what will you do moving forwards?
Take a look at Ben & Jerry’s. Since 2016, the brand has been very vocal with its social advocacy and not only do they show their activism externally, it’s also the very core of their business. On their website, they have an “issues we care about” section highlighting their stance on LGBTQ+ rights, Climate Justice, Refugee Rights, and more. So, during these key calendar months, for example Pride Month, their actions aren’t seen as performative, exploitative or opportunistic.
Black History Month in the UK is 6 months away, and with so many other key diversity calendar moments in between, what will you do - starting now - to show up authentically when the time comes?