Santa Fe, NM — In June, as people from across the country took to the streets to participate in Black Lives Matter demonstrations, some brands took to social media to express support for the movement. Interspersed between videos of police attacking protestors were companies’ calls, often in the form of a black square with white text, for solidarity and change.
As quickly as the brand issued statements, the authenticity of those statements was called into question: which companies were paying lip service to the cause and which were actually committed to addressing racial injustice?
Some of the scrutinies proved warranted. The Daily Dot reported a photo of the CEO of Lush handing out products to police officers. The photo surfaced on Twitter a few days before the company publicly aligned with Black Lives Matter in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by police. In a similarly contradictory move, Starbucks banned employees from wearing apparel that showed support for the Black Lives Matter movement, according to an internal bulletin obtained by BuzzFeed News. This was days after the company tweeted that they "stand in solidarity with our Black partners, customers and communities.”
To parse the optical allies from the real ones, YR Media tracked five companies’ actions since they spoke up in June. Some corporations demonstrated support by pledging money to anti-racist causes, while others are undergoing internal audits of the racial makeup of their companies, committed to diversifying their staff and boardrooms. Here’s how the rest of them fared.
The coffee company made 250,000 pro-Black Lives Matter T-shirts for employees after previously banning them from showing support for the movement through clothes and accessories. They pledged $1 million to neighborhood grants, which are nominated by a mix of employees and civil rights advisors, and go toward funding causes that address racial injustice. The company is also recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday, according to a spokesperson. Some of the other anti-racist work Starbucks is involved in, like the elective online anti-bias classes they offer and annual internal diversity audit they undergo, are ongoing and aren’t new developments for the company.
This company is doing a couple of things to combat racial injustice. Lush donated $250,000 to Black-led organizations, and another $250,000 from Charity Pot lotion sales is slated to fund community-based organizations fighting for racial equality. The cosmetic chain is also making moves internally — product names are being reviewed for culturally insensitive language, and an audit to assess the diversity of the staff was rolled out at the end of July, according to a spokesperson for the company. In September, all employees will participate in anti-racism and anti-oppression training developed by the company’s diversity advisory board.
The tech company pledged $100 million to an initiative fighting for racial justice. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, announced on Twitter that the initiative would focus on education, economic equality and criminal justice reform. Also, in the video, Cook said the company rolled out an entrepreneurial camp for Black developers on June 22. According to a spokesperson, Apple is also changing the way it does business by investing with Black partners and auditing and diversifying its staff.
So far, Chipotle pledged $1 million to anti-racist organizations, $500,000 to the National Urban League, and $250,000 for community improvement grants, which will be nominated by restaurant managers. More than $1million has been raised for the National Urban League by allowing guests to round up their tip. Elements of the company’s plan to combat inequality, like the pledge to appoint diverse representatives on Chipotle’s board of directors or reviewing internal diversity data, are already set in motion. Mary Winston, the former CEO of Bed Bath & Beyond, joined Chipotle’s board of directors, making her the first Black woman appointed to the position. But other moves, like organizing voter registration for employees and piloting grants for young minority farmers, are already in motion, and, in regards to the latter example, have been for a while.
On June 17, the streaming service pledged $10 million to nonprofits with a mission to fight racism chosen by employees. They also featured a curated collection of playlists and podcasts created by Black artists in recognition of Blackout Tuesday, which was June 2.
This story was updated to reflect new numbers for Chipotle’s program rounding tips and to include a new member of the board of directors.