Companies and CEOs around the country are denouncing racism and violence in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Since May 25th, the day of his death, Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests have swept a majority of the country and grown into an international movement against racism and police violence.
Historically, brands have avoided taking political stands out of fear of offending their customers. According to a new Washington Post-Schar School poll , 74% of consumers agree with the protests, but there’s divisiveness about how brands should respond to issues.
While some brands have remained silent in the BLM movement, that’s an exception among the highest profile B2C brands at the moment. Most started to express a stance on the matter because it’s the “right thing to do”, and others just following suit of the corporate crowd. Many in BLM and beyond have demanded that words of these big corporations should be followed by action: monetary contributions to the BLM movement and hiring, board or executive changes.
Here are snippets of big corporation’s public comments on the BLM movement:
Ben & Jerry’s
We must dismantle white supremacy. Silence is not an option. We have to speak out. We have to stand together with the victims of murder, marginalization and repression because of their skin color, and with those who seek justice through protests across our country. We have to say his name: George Floyd. The murder of George Floyd was the result of inhumane police brutality that is perpetuated by a culture of white supremacy. What happened to George Floyd was not the result of a bad apple; it was the predictable consequence of a racist and prejudiced system and culture that has treated black bodies as the enemy from the beginning.
Josh Silverman, CEO of Etsy
Allyship with black communities is as much a moral imperative as a requirement of our business. We can’t fight for small businesses, if we don’t also fight for the empowerment of black business owners. We can’t hire and care for our black employees, if we don’t also protect black lives everywhere. We can’t be there for women employees, if we aren’t also standing up specifically for black women. We can’t advocate for parents, if we aren’t standing with black mothers and fathers who fear for their black children’s lives. Black Lives Matter is the civil rights movement of our time, because it addresses a fundamental inequality in our society: That black lives are too often undervalued.
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft
This is not something you can just leave behind when you log into work. The weight can be enormous, and so the question, of course, is what can we do, what should we do? I know it’s not enough to just have empathy for those impacted, for the communities experiencing this hate, firsthand, scared for their safety, and for their loved ones. It’s incumbent upon us to use our platforms, our resources, to drive systemic change. That’s the real challenge here. My ask to each of you is to come together. Ask a colleague how they are doing today. Give each other grace as they’re navigating unseen circumstances. Have empathy for those who are scared and uncertain, and join me and everyone on the senior leadership team, in advocating for change in our company, in our communities, and in society at large.
A big challenge for brands is convincing their audience their stance is authentic and real. According to a January Morning Consult survey, a large amount of consumers (42%) said companies “try too hard to make it seem like they care about things besides their own bottom line.” Another 22% said they “didn’t know” and 36% were supportive of brand activism. One way to avoid criticism from consumers is to real sincerity and honesty, rather than a second-guessed calculated statement. Regardless, there’s no way around being neutral on racial injustice, and silence in this case is not an option, at least for most B2C companies.
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