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Customers are demanding more from brands in 2020 and beyond, looking for the companies they buy from to be engaged in their communities and active in the national dialogue. In 2019, Marstein reported that 70 percent of consumers want to know what brands are doing to address social and environmental issues.
In 2020, as social justice came to a head, while mitigating a challenging political climate and global pandemic, consumers demanded that companies speak out. Brands like the NBA and MLB responded by supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and companies like Grubhub took a leading role in the conversations that were happening online.
However, engaging in social change isn’t something that’s limited to major corporations and global brands. You don’t need a major platform to speak out when you see injustice or to stand up for what is right. See how these four companies took a stand, shifted their business processes, and lived their company values to help make a change.
Many small business owners have used this year to consider who they work with and where they’re unintentionally exclusionary. Carly Jo Bell, a brand coach at WholeCo Media, realized that she needed to actively expand her network and partnerships to welcome people from diverse backgrounds, rather than passively expecting people to find her.
“I used to think that because I wasn’t intentionally collaborating with only white women, I wasn’t doing anything ‘wrong.’ But I now realize that to be true to my values is to intentionally collaborate with Black, Indigenous, and people of color—and this shift is not only a more accurate depiction of my true values, it also makes it easier to connect with customers who share similar values,” says Bell.
Bell is actively working to check her white privilege at the door and understand her role in building others up. Bell reminds us that we need to be intentional about creating diverse conversations and relationships—and you don’t need to work for a well-known brand to do that.
Social change isn’t just found on the B2C front. Many companies are working to help their clients become smarter and fairer with regard to social issues. For example, many insurance companies are seeing an increase in Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI), says Sam Meenasin, vice president of Sales and Marketing Operations at USA Business Insurance.
This is important to note because this insurance protects companies against wrongful termination suits. With more workers speaking out against poor work environments and the discrimination they face, companies are going to the defense.
Meenasin isn’t just doling out insurance, though. He explains how they’re leveraging this opportunity: “We don’t just provide the coverage but we also mail all customers fact sheets with their policy renewal that outlines the rights of the people in their workplace. We feel this is just one small way we can help both employers and employees create a fair, just and kind workspace.”
In many cases, employers aren’t aware that their unconscious bias is at the root of the problem. Education is the first step toward creating an equitable workplace.
If you don’t think your company can embrace social change and make a statement with its products or services, think again. CelebriDucks, a company that manufacturers collectible celebrity rubber ducks, as a role model. Craig Wolfe, president, is immensely proud of the ducks they design and the different walks of life they come from.
“A few years ago one of our clients had us create the first transgender rubber duck of Amanda Lepore….She loved it!” Wolfe says.
Representation is important, whether you’re watching the first woman take the field during a college football game or giving your child a bath. It’s in these seemingly small and simple ways that we can begin to bring change to the forefront.
While existing brands are making great strides to build up their communities, some entrepreneurs are building new companies that solve the problems 2020 has brought to the forefront. This was the case for Teigan Margetts, co-founder of Ethicool Books, a company that develops children’s books that tackle big issues.
Not only will these books create a generation of kids who care, but the company itself gives back when it can. “For us, being more inclusive means giving back to those who may not be able to afford our books in the first place,” Margetts says.
She continues, “This year, we’ve donated more than 1,000 books to charities that support refugee families, as well as those who support people of different faiths to take action on climate change.”
The books themselves are manufactured with a minimal carbon footprint and are printed on recycled paper with soy-based ink to continue making an impact on the world, long after the books are finished being read.
If Americans are going to take steps to create a fair and just country for all, regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation, every person and business needs to work to overcome their own biases and exclusionary behaviors. These companies, and many others, have proven that small businesses and entrepreneurs can contribute in a meaningful way—and more importantly, that we all have a duty to contribute to driving social change.
Jessica Thiefels is a published author, host of Mindset Reset Radio, and founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, an organic content marketing agency. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications including Forbes and Entrepreneur. She also contributes to Glassdoor, Fast Company, Outbrain, Score.org and more. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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