An Update On Solidarity: Are Brands Keeping Their Pledges Of Diversity?


In the year 2020, the world watched as the US entered a renewed racial reckoning following the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Daniel Prude, and so many others at the hands of law enforcement. Their murders, along with the compounded generational fights for racial justice in the country, amplified social movements and prompted many corporations to pledge their support of community organizations, and make promises to do better. So how are they doing in keeping their promises? 

Public relations consultant Keisha McCotry spoke to The Huffington Post and said she’s seen more people of color in ads but that the work isn’t over. 

“I think it’s great, but I think it is super late,” McCotry told the outlet. “I do think that some of it is performative. [Brands] feel they have to do this or they’re going to get backlash.” 

Companies like Ulta Beauty and Target implemented plans to increase the number of Black owned brands on their shelves as part of their diversity pushes.

Other financial companies, opted to establish funds for Black small business owners who have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. We’ve seen numerous donations to HBCUs from celebrity and corporate donors as part of these pushes and promises for equity building. Some of those donations have included program establishments at these institutions to promote pipelines for HBCU grads to enter the workforce at some of the same companies. 

Kingsford started a small business incubator for Black grill masters who want to own their own restaurant in response to the call for racial, social, and economic justice.

Still, work remains for companies to actualize their pushes for diversity and equity. The Guess brand is a recent example and serves as evidence that there is still work to be done. The brand halted the sale of a “rip off” version of the widely-popular Black-owned Telfar bag. Guess was among the companies pledging its support of racial justice and equality, and some online called them out for the contradictory move to sell a bag that so closely resembles a smaller, Black brand, and at a cheaper price point. 

And brands will want to do the work they said they were going to do, as it may impact their bottom line down the road. “Companies’ consideration of diversity and inclusion is not only important on the basis of values; it also has a material impact on their long-term performance,” analysts at Barclays said in a research report last summer

As these brands and corporations make their shelves more diverse, pledge their money to funds, Black businesses have also garnered renewed support and visibility. The protests of last summer underscored the impact of community and shared economics, and had many people seeking out Black-owned businesses to patronize. That momentum can be equally important as larger brands and companies moving towards increased equity, especially as the conversations of race and its history in the US continue. 

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