It’s time for companies to put their money where their mouth is on racial inequality

Week of 23 November 2020

It’s time for companies to put their money where their mouth is on racial inequality

To truly tackle entrenched racism and social inequality, it’s time for companies to move beyond basic diversity commitments towards more proactive, anti-racist approaches. B Lab’s latest handbook on Anti-Racism Business Resources emphasizes a few key elements: collecting the right data, listening to and learning from the experiences of your employees, and leaning into uncomfortable conversations. 

Corporate sustainability certification organisation B Lab developed Anti-Racism Business Resources: Commit and Act: Examples and Steps to Drive Real Change, a set of resources for companies and business leaders on how to be anti-racist. The report defines anti-racism as “an active and conscious effort to work against multidimensional aspects of racism,” quoting Robert J. Patterson, professor of African American Studies at Georgetown University.

Below are a few of our main takeaways (and there are many more in the report!):

    • “To Make Your Organization More Inclusive, Start With Data.” Companies need to start by understanding their baseline for diversity and inclusion, before they can do the work of becoming anti-racist. For example, B Lab conducted a survey of its own staff on their experiences in the workplace, “with the intention to create opportunities for year-over-year benchmarking and to identify opportunities for staff education.” Having data proved to be extremely valuable to the organisation: it kept conversations high-level and productive rather than accusatory; gave leadership specific metrics to track progress on; and helped both staff and leadership assess their own blind spots.
    • “To Tackle Racism and Drive Change, We Must Lean Into Discomfort.” Company leaders need to break down barriers to dialogue among and between internal staff and leadership. The B Lab report acknowledges that this process can be very uncomfortable, but that it is a necessary step to make real progress and tackle systemic injustice. The report includes some guidance for companies on how to do this effectively, including learning the history of entrenched racism and inequality and seeing how your business is connected, engaging experts, and—importantly—“stop making excuses.”   
    • The report also shares examples and insights from certified B Corporations:
      • “Broaden your mission to include inclusion and equity.” Recognise that growth and progress can’t happen if fundamental inequalities remain in the workplace and among stakeholders.
      • “Check your shelves and supply chain.” Actively seek to source from diverse suppliers, and push others in your value chain to do the same.   
      • “Commit to open hiring and equitable pay.” Disclose staff diversity, pay ranges and hiring practices to help ensure that everyone is paid and treated equally.
      • “Back up the talk.” Use your company’s platform to speak up on racial justice issues, like reform of the criminal justice system.
      • “Donate and disclose.” Make a commitment to donate to anti-racist causes and movements like Black Lives Matter, and share your company’s progress openly on an ongoing basis—not just in a single tweet.
      • “Invest with a racial justice lens.” B Corp Nia Impact Capital released a guide for making investment allocations guided by equity and racial justice.
      • “Share your journey and cut ties with those who don’t act.” Get feedback through conversations with staff and key stakeholders and end partnerships that don’t align with your company’s anti-racist commitments.

Read the full report here: B Lab, Anti-Racism Business Resources: Commit and Act: Examples and Steps to Drive Real Change (November 2020)

“These events are not simply the result of individual actions by bad people, they are born out of a system of structural racism that infects our society. If we want progress — if we want to be part of a solution that moves us toward a system that is truly inclusive, equitable and empowers all people — we must talk about race and take action to dismantle racism and white supremacy.”
“There is an existing intersection between racism, white supremacy culture, and capitalism as we know it. Injustice does not recognize city, state or country borders. Systems of oppression exist around the globe and have existed as such for hundreds of years. Anti-Black violence and police brutality, disproportionate effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic, and racism are prevalent from Africa to Asia to the United Kingdom. Colorism, xenophobia and intolerance are problems prevalent in all societies. Benefits that are structured to advantage majority groups at the expense of others are rooted in white supremacy, and create power inequalities, unequal access to opportunities, and differing policy outcomes by race and other demographics.”

Dr. Ellonda L. Green, B Lab Director of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, Anti-Racism Business Resources: Commit and Act: Examples and Steps to Drive Real Change