Here’s how to truly make a difference with this social justice toolkit.
There’s no denying the fact that the current climate in America is tense. As a society, we’ve found ourselves on the tail end of a devastating pandemic. To make matters worse, the unfolding of numerous tragic events has once again thrust the issues of systemic injustice and inequality into the spotlight. However, such occurrences have spawned a newly invigorated wave of demand for social change and facilitated a growing sense of solidarity on a global scale.
The key idea to remember during this time is that every company, regardless of background, size, or industry, can make a difference. You don’t have to be a massive global corporation to make an impact. Did you know that a whopping 99.7% of all businesses in the United States are classified as SMBs? Think of the difference we could make if each and every one of us took a pledge to actively join the fight for greater equality.
If you’re interested in learning what steps you can take as a small to medium-sized business to help bridge the gap of inequality and support the cause for greater social justice, then this article is just for you.
How SMBs can take the first step in making a difference
1. Get clear on your stance
When it comes to making a difference, the first step lies in taking a stand. There’s no room for wishy-washy ambiguity in today’s climate. People are watching your company now more than ever to see how you react. It’s time to boldly lead by example.
Address the occurrences going on within society and the inarguable instances of social injustice and inequality head-on. Many companies are drafting formal statements in response to recent events and releasing them both internally and to the public. Come up with a diversity statement of your own that shows the public you’ve thought critically about the recent events, then define the ways in which you’re willing to take a stand for equality. Your company needs to be more than just a compassionate bystander.
2. Develop a strategy for diversifying your workforce and policies
Next, create measurable objectives and a strategy for bringing your diversity statement to life. When it comes to implementing a strategy, you’ll want to begin by collecting feedback and insights internally from everyone at your company—not just the leadership team. Each and every team member has a unique point of view, and the key to achieving an effective strategy lies in gaining a well-rounded perspective based on the insights of a diverse group of individuals. Take the time to anonymously survey your employees to gain perspective and identify areas for improvement. Only then is it time for you to begin formulating or updating your strategy.
3. Foster an inclusive environment
Now is the best time to make a concerted effort in reviewing your current practices and policies to ensure that your company is doing all that it can to promote a culture of equality within the workforce. During this period, some minority groups have expressed their concern over the motives behind many companies’ sudden sharp stance in support of social justice, especially regarding the Black Lives Matter movement. They argue that it seems almost as if some companies are just doing it for show—to jump on the bandwagon and participate in the latest social “trend.”
For example, coffee giant Starbucks, often hailed for its progressive image, recently got into hot water for publicly supporting social justice movements, such as Black Lives Matter, then quietly banning their employees from wearing any clothing or accessories in support of them. Many employees were quick to note the blatant hypocrisy, especially considering the fact that the company “not only exempts buttons and attire celebrating LGBTQ rights and marriage equality but hands them out.” Naturally, this turned into a publicity fiasco with the hashtag #boycottstarbucks going viral on social media. The company quickly reversed its decision, but the damage had already been done.
The key takeaway from this is that your company can shout its support for social justice and equality from the rooftops all it wants, but if your workforce, environment, and internal policies don’t reflect your words, then you’ve failed. This is because fostering a diverse and inclusive company doesn’t begin and end with your hiring practices and analyzing your policies. It also includes taking the initiative to create a culture of inclusivity, which can often be more nuanced and require more effort. Start by promoting learning and education on inclusion within the workplace:
2. Then, take Project Implicit’s renowned Implicit Association Test to identify those biases.
3. Further cultivate learning by inviting speakers and offering thoughtful, open discussions where employees have the opportunity to learn, understand, and grow together.
4. Encourage activism and take progressive measures, such as allowing time off for protests, voting, and volunteering if feasible.
It’s important to note that leadership engagement is crucial to the success of this endeavor. This means visible participation from the executive and management teams and completing inclusion and diversity workshops to help them confidently spearhead effective change. Support from the company and leadership as a whole is vital to any authentic cultural change initiative you implement within your company.
4. Support companies owned by minorities and organizations dedicated to driving social change
Strengthening society and making a true impact regarding social justice and the fight for equality starts with supporting those who need it most. Take the time to show and encourage support for your fellow minority business owners and leaders during these challenging times. For example, many companies have come together in support of solidarity in the face of injustice by participating in the 15% pledge, which calls on retailers to dedicate at least 15% of their products to Black-owned businesses to align with the makeup of the U.S. population.
However, not every business is structured in a way that makes this particular endeavor feasible. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t make a difference in other ways. Every business can make a more conscientious effort to redirect its existing budget towards minority-owned businesses and freelancers. The first step in initiating change involves reviewing your existing partnerships. There are numerous directories available, such as the Official Black Wallstreet and Support Your Ladies’ Black Women-Owned Businesses, that provide a range of useful information, materials, and services to support your efforts.
You can also make a difference by taking the time—and funds if available—to support and encourage support for organizations whose primary purpose is driving social change. These organizations are well-equipped to drive change in the most effective and efficient manner, so you can be confident that your financial donations or volunteer hours will be maximized. In addition to your local social equality organizations, consider supporting:
Many companies are taking the time to create a page dedicated to educating the public and their employees about ways in which they can further educate themselves on issues of social justice or directly take action to drive it.
Clothing retailer Dolls Kill is another company that recently came under fire for insensitivity. While the public apology left many feeling unfulfilled, the company did take the initiative to create an in-depth page in support of the Black Lives Matter movement listing important information on resources, organizations to donate to, materials to consume, and voting schedules by state. While we definitely don’t endorse a reactive approach, we do recommend taking the time to proactively show your support in a genuine and meaningful way.
If the recent tragic events have taught us anything, it’s that we all need to come together as one to help make a palpable impact on society. Action isn’t just reserved for Fortune 500 companies with bottomless pockets. Each SMB can also act as a local social driver. In fact, proximity to employees is a massive advantage that small businesses have over large corporations. Individuals are more likely to consider or be influenced by the beliefs of people who surround them on a daily basis.
End this day with a pledge to make a difference. In the words of the great Dalai Lama, “It is not enough to be compassionate. You must act.”
Expertly written by Danni Holland.