In the spotlight of protests after the assassination of George Floyd and the movement Black Lives Matter (Black Lives Matter), several companies declare themselves activists and take advantage of the moment for self-promotion. In a generation like the one we live in, where younger people (Millennials, Gen Z and X) stand out when asking for changes, this is no longer acceptable.
Activism is the simple act of defending something. Since the 1970s, with the LGBT + liberation movement, companies have created products aimed at minorities and profit from their struggles without actually helping.
According to Gijs Corstens, founder of the HackYourFuture coding school, there are different types of corporate activism (as it is called when companies use social movements in their operation) and these types depend on when and why entrepreneurs decide to do so.
As an example, in 2018, Nike used the image of Colin Kaepernick and the phrase “Believe in Something. Even if it means losing everything ”(“ Believe in something. Even if it means losing everything ”) as advertising.
The NFL player became famous after kneeling during the national anthem at a football game, in protest of the deaths of black people at the hands of police officers, and lost his job. Although some people shot themselves burning their Nike shoes, sales of the company’s products increased by 31% that week.
Another example is that of L’Óreal Paris’ campaign that never existed with model Munroe Bergdorf in 2017. They fired her after writing a text on her Facebook about racial violence by white people after the rally of white nationalists in Charlottesville (which Trump defended). Three years later, the company posted a photo on Twitter with the words “Speaking out is Worth It” (something like “Talking out, boldly, it’s worth it”). The black and transsexual model responded, pointing out hypocrisy.
On Twitter, Munroe writes: “You pulled me out of a campaign in 2017 and threw me to the wolves for talking about racism and white supremacy. Without the duty to care, without thinking twice. […] I said yesterday that it was just a matter of time for racist brands to see a window into a public relations opportunity. Fuck you. F ****** your solidarity ”.
Corstens says that most companies join activism after a moment he calls it, when the issue is already socially acceptable in most of society – so it helps with sales. There are few companies that have made such a choice before or just for ethics.
Is corporate activism good for society?
However, even if only profits are targeted, it is possible that corporate activism is good for society – it just needs to be done very well. An exemplary model is the film, from Marvel. About the king of Wakanda, an African country that was never colonized and therefore only has black people and all their resources, the feature generated $ 1.34 billion for producers and provided representation for successful black children and adults, without stereotypes outdated and with a lot of African culture.
Even better is when activism is used to stamp your products and use part of the profit to donate to NGOs and movement groups that were used, as the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream brand did with the Pecan Resist flavor. In addition, the owners of the company always publish on their official website about the movements and their support, like this article, and go to protests.
There are several ways to support a movement, other than just using your image. L’Óreal Paris, after Munroe Bergdorf’s arguments, contacted the model and, after a conversation with a team of women of different ethnicities, she was hired to work with them to help them improve on the racial issue . The company also agreed to donate a large amount of money to a charity of its choice.
Posting a black image in defense of Vidas Negras Matter and an empty sentence is no longer enough in a world where people care about what is right and are willing to help and change. Action is needed to honor words. Fortunately, it is possible to do this both individually and corporately.