From Nike to Netflix, major U.S. corporations have pledged support to racial justice in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody.
“Black Lives Matter” has become a common tagline on corporate Twitter accounts and communications.
Many observers are understandably skeptical of the companies’ motives. There is a history of corporations giving lip service to social justice movements as they peak but doing little to change their corporate culture to truly embrace change.
That’s why it’s important for Americans to keep pressure on companies to back up words with actions.
In recent decades companies have increasingly paid attention to corporate responsibility, including taking steps to limit their carbon footprint in light of climate change. Sometimes those actions are based on a true belief by leadership that it’s the right thing to do. Other times it may simply be based on the cold financial calculation of knowing reliance on fossil fuels will become increasingly untenable and expensive.
Either way, the results are beneficial to society.
When it comes to social justice issues, company leaders must truly believe there is a moral imperative to taking a stand not just an opportunity for a quick marketing bump or financial gain.
Companies can turn to Minneapolis-based Target to study ways to back up slogans with actions.
Target has pledged $10 million to social justice organizations and to rebuilding efforts for Minneapolis neighborhoods ravaged by violent protests. They also committed to provide 10,000 hours of pro bono consulting services for businesses owned by people of color.
The company has backed up words with actions before. Target has shown its support for gay rights by ensuring its advertising features more than just heterosexual couples and by systemically ensuring its hiring and promotion practices are more inclusive toward the LGBTQ community.
Companies pledging unity with those seeking racial justice can similarly back it up with financial help and, more importantly, with changes that make their own workplaces less racist and by reviewing their own hiring, promotion and compensation practices.
Corporate America has made strides toward social responsibility. Consumers and stock holders must ensure companies continue to back up their words with meaningful actions when it comes to racial justice.