By: Michele Egan
Seventy-four percent of consumers want brands to take a stand on important issues, according to a 2019 study, and major brands and their CEOs are responding, particularly to recent national conversations around social justice and racism. Lowe’s CEO Marvin Ellison said in a statement, “To overcome the challenges that we all face, we must use our voices and demand that ignorance and racism must come to an end. This is a time to come together, to support one another and, through partnership, begin to heal.”
Consumers are not only paying attention to what a company says, but also to the actions they take and how they treat their employees. It’s the difference between performatively declaring oneself an “ally” and actively practicing allyship.
On June 4, Starbucks released a statement on Twitter in support of Black Lives Matter (BLM) and pledged they were “committed to being part of change.” Days later, Starbucks told employees they couldn’t wear anything that could be seen as supporting the movement. After mounting public pressure, Starbucks reversed course and announced that in addition to making donations to social justice causes and creating a platform to educate stakeholders on social justice issues, Starbucks will produce 250,000 t-shirts for employees to wear in support of BLM.
While the pandemic has undoubtedly shifted how companies and nonprofits are able to address the causes they care about, the demand for action has only increased. Many CSR professionals are grappling with how and when to re-introduce volunteering, being ultra-sensitive to the mental health and well-being of employees. Nevertheless, companies and nonprofits are finding unique ways to answer consumer – and employee – demands for authentigrated action. AdAge is compiling and frequently updating a list of examples of how companies are addressing social justice issues.
Some companies are finding ways to encourage and empower their employees to take action to support specific causes they care about. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is “giving employees two days of paid time off each month leading up to the election to volunteer for any political or social cause of their choosing.” The IAB acknowledged that “powerful individuals, groups and some government officials are disenfranchising African-Americans and other minority groups, suppressing voting rights, inciting local police to harm citizens exercising their first amendment rights and promoting violence against the press. Rather than simply condemn these actions, we encourage our staff and members to work to further American democracy.”
Other companies have found ways to engage employees in issues that matter to the brand. Levi Strauss & Co. has been active in encouraging employees, consumers and the business community to embrace the responsibility to vote. As Levi’s CEO, Chip Bergh wrote at the time of the company’s IPO, “our value and our values are inextricably linked, and I believe it is false to say we or any company must choose between business performance or responsible social conduct. The most successful companies do both.” For their efforts, Levi’s was honored as the 2020 Engage for Good Halo Award Winner.
The work done now by both nonprofits and companies to keep audiences, particularly employees, engaged will be valuable long after a virtual environment is no longer necessary to keep people safe. The shift to virtual has forced organizers to refocus on what is absolutely vital to success and has in many cases uncovered better, more efficient ways to achieve goals.
The global shift to a virtual office for so many workers has demonstrated that at least some volunteer efforts can proceed in a virtual environment. According to Taproot Foundation, interest in skills-based volunteering has soared in the past several months. Companies that provide services that are in high-demand now, such as gaming, are finding new ways to engage. Activision Blizzard, a leader in the gaming space, is working to leverage these experienced gamers to help nonprofit partners by giving back while maintaining authenticity to the cause. Even nonprofits and causes that rely on in-person volunteering, such as Habitat for Humanity’s housing builds, are finding ways to pivot and stay engaged with their audience.
As nonprofits and companies continue to navigate their path forward, For Momentum is working alongside organizations to keep stakeholders and partners engaged through meaningful, authentigrated partnerships.