Which Brands Delivered Their Black Lives Matter Promises? (A Black History Month 2021 Review)

Black History Month marks 16 months since the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020. Many brands made commitments then - but who delivered?
Fanbytes | Which Brands Delivered on Black Lives Matter Pledges - Black History Month

In 30 seconds:

  • Black History Month 2021 is a moment for brands to examine how much they’ve learned since the Black Lives Matter protests of summer 2020.
  • The good news is, there are great brands making quantifiable changes to support the black community.
  • As brands celebrate Black History Month, do so with authenticity and meaningful action. Take inspiration from the brands who are making commitments all year round.

Black History Month 2021 in the UK marks 16 months since the decisive events of June 2020, when, in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, protesters took to the streets to speak out against police brutality and institutionalised racism. 

At that time, many brands throughout the world pledged to make a meaningful difference. From partnering with black-owned businesses to supporting anti-racism charities, brands demonstrated their willingness to address the causes of institutionalised racism and make much-needed changes. 

This also built on the #BlackoutTuesday trend on Instagram, in which over 950 brands participated. While social media is a powerful tool to spread a message, supporting the Black Lives Matter movement needs to be coupled with action. A statement on social media is just the start: what matters is accountability and real-world operation. 

But now that it’s been over a year, which brands have delivered on their BLM promises?

Black Lives Matter: Brands Getting it Right

As the Black Lives Matter protests came into focus in 2020, many brands set quantifiable goals for themselves that aligned with the movement. Now that the UK is celebrating Black History Month 2021, it’s an opportunity to assess the brands who’ve made positive changes. 

Black History Month is an important time to acknowledge the contributions of black people to society, but also take stock of how institutionalised racism affects the black community – and how we can tackle it. For brands, taking inspiration from what’s working can be a useful step for developing their own commitments to inclusivity and diversity. 

So, here’s our list of the brands whose achievements and commitments we are celebrating:

Fanbytes | Gen Z Marketing | Black Lives Matter - Black History Month - Sephora

1. Sephora

In May 2020, Sephora CEO Jean-André Rougeot issued a statement committing to stand in solidarity with the BLM movement. Later that summer, Sephora became the first of nearly two dozen companies that committed to the 15 Percent Pledge, a nonprofit that calls on businesses to dedicate 15% of their shelf space to black-owned businesses. 

Since then, Sephora has made good on its 15% promise, and furthermore, it’s well on track to double the number of black-owned brands it carries by the end of 2021. It’s also focused on supporting the black community through its Sephora Accelerate program

More recently, the retailer has provided new training modules for in-store employees aimed at mitigating racially biased experiences, and has reduced the presence of third-party security officers in line with its BLM commitments. It’s exciting to see Sephora expanding its vision, as it indicates the company has internalised its messages and will continue their work to support the black community.

Fanbytes | Gen Z Marketing | Black Lives Matter - Black History Month - Airbnb

2. AirBnB

In 2020, AirBnB pledged a total of $500,000 to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the BLM foundation. It also announced it would match employee donations to both organisations. They also said that by the end of 2021, 20% of the company’s Board of Directors and Executive Team would be people of colour – and each member would create and share plans to further the company’s diversity efforts. 

Since then, Airbnb has fulfilled its $500,000 commitment to NAACP and the BLM, as well as its pledge to match employee donations. Airbnb also gave funds to support Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and made an additional $100,000 contribution to the NAACP Legal Defence and Education Fund to support their work to protect the right to vote. 

AirBnB have continued their commitments to increasing diversity within their leadership team and company. In addition, this summer, they announced plans to make Juneteenth a paid company holiday; a mark of how the company is forefronting the history and experiences of black people. 

Fanbytes | Gen Z Marketing | Black Lives Matter - Black History Month - Snapchat

3. Snapchat

In the midst of last summer’s protests, Snapchat released their first diversity report, which showed that black people represented 4.1% of their workforce. It said that Snap would expand the scope of Discover content, with more than half of Snap Originals featuring hosts or leads who identify as LGBTQ+ or people of colour. Snap also committed to doubling the number of employees from underrepresented racial and ethnic minority groups by 2025. 

In 2021, Snapchat is on track to meet its representation target, with 21.4% progress made so far. The company also set new goals, which include increasing the number of people from underrepresented U.S. racial and ethnic minority groups in leadership. It’s also added career prep tracks for marketing, brand strategy and augmented reality for students from these backgrounds.

That’s not all. Snap is partnering with diverse experts to improve its camera, so it works better regardless of skin tone, and it’s introduced a “3i framework” to provide guidance to employees on approaching their work with equity. It’s a great example of how companies can make sure they are supportive and inclusive both inside and out.

Fanbytes | Gen Z Marketing | Black Lives Matter - Black History Month - Netflix

4. Netflix

Where is representation more visually evident than on our screens? In 2020, Netflix used its global power to put the BLM message in our homes. The streaming giant added a collection to its catalogue named Black Lives Matter, while announcing, “When we say ‘Black Lives Matter’, we also mean ‘Black storytelling matters.’

Netflix also made financial commitments. It pledged $100 million to financial institutions and organisations supporting black communities, with 2% of the company’s cash holdings going forward. It also committed $5 million to nonprofits creating opportunities for the black community and said it would also match employee donations at 200%.

So far in 2021, Netflix has committed $70 million of its $100 million target. In February, the company also announced a $100 million fund for Creative Equity, which Netflix will invest over 5 years to serve underrepresented communities in TV and film. The company also released their first inclusion report, which found that the number of black employees in the U.S. had doubled in the last three years. It’s a good sign of things to come.

Fanbytes | Gen Z Marketing | Black Lives Matter - Black History Month - Bumble

5. Bumble

In 2020, Bumble released a statement saying that it would commit $1 million towards the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Black Women’s Health Imperative, community bail funds across the U.S., and the Austin Justice Coalition in support of racial justice in Bumble’s hometown. It also shared that it would match employee donations.

Notably, Bumble also announced that it would provide paid time off for those ‘grieving, experiencing trauma, or simply needing to rest amid a climate of fear’; a leave policy that’s seen as a gold standard for supporting equity and inclusion. 

So far, Bumble has stood by this $1 million commitment and its pledge to match employee donations. In addition, Bumble has focused on improving its internal policies, including launching a pilot coaching program for staff from historically underrepresented groups. Notably, Bumble has also worked with the Anti-Defamation League to identify hate symbols and improve Bumble’s underlying technology to address systemic racism on the app.

Fanbytes | Gen Z Marketing | Black Lives Matter - Black History Month - Peloton

6. Peloton

In June 2020, Peloton announced that the company would commit $100 million over the next four years to fight racial injustice and inequality. It pledged to increase the wages of its hourly workforce, improve learning and development programs and support non-profit partners supporting the fights against racial injustice, beginning with a $500,000 donation to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Peloton has stuck to this promise. In addition, the exercise equipment company built out its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team, and 11% of its most recent intern class came from HBCUs. Peloton also partnered with Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research to understand the intersection of racial equality with mental health and fitness.

Through a partnership with Beyoncé, Peleton now also provides two-year free digital memberships to students at 10 HBCUs; a move that’s seen as a blueprint for building an inclusive brand. It’s a lesson that building on brands’ diversity promises is an opportunity for industry-leading creativity, as well as doing much-needed good.

Going A Step Further

The brands that made the most impactful commitments in 2020 were the ones dedicated to listening, leading, investing and advocating. They set significant goals, internally and externally. They looked at how they could conduct their business better, and how they could better support black people.

Examining those promises in 2021, it’s rewarding to see these brands stick to their pledges – with many of them doubling down on last year’s commitments, or finding additional creative and meaningful ways to make a difference. 

Setting measurable targets for black representation in leadership, providing financial support, investing in education and training opportunities, and sharing metrics and reporting frameworks for diversity, equity and inclusion: these are practical and necessary steps brands can and should take to do more. 

Brands can learn a lot from the companies who’ve got this right. They can use the common denominators of success here as a benchmark for their own practices. And they can also take inspiration from the brands that took additional initiative. It says a lot about your brand if you can actively lead in your diversity work, as well as following what works. There’s more room for creativity and inspiration in this space – and the more that brands do to help, the better.

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