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3 actions for businesses to accelerate equality in 2021

The actions every company can take to make true progress toward equality, according to Arielle Gross Samuels, head of global business strategy and engagement at Facebook.

Arielle Gross Samuels, Head of Global Business Strategy and Engagement, Facebook

2020 was one of the most transformational years of our lifetimes. We faced situations that few of us had ever imagined, and that fewer businesses had prepared for.

Well before 2020, we were grappling with major societal forces—from climate change to the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements. But the global pandemic exacerbated inequality through its outsized devastation on minorities and underserved communities. According to our newly released State of Small Business Report from the Small Business Roundtable and Facebook, 70% of small businesses in minority communities have reported lower sales compared to 41% in non-minority communities.

History has shown that moments of profound challenge often result in extraordinary innovations. It’s up to businesses everywhere to use their power to make progress towards equality.

Let’s commit to a new business scorecard for the 21st century:

  1. Diversify your dollar across supply chains and vendor ecosystems.
  2. Share the stage with historically underrepresented voices.
  3. Accelerate inclusive representation of communities in media.

1. Diversify your dollar

First, let’s look at an important driver of business equality: how we spend our money. Business practitioners influence the flow of capital almost daily. Considering diverse businesses face systemic barriers to secure capital, it’s imperative that businesses diversify their spend to create a more equitable marketplace. According to the Congressional Black Caucus, Black entrepreneurs are almost three times more likely than white entrepreneurs to report their business profits have been negatively impacted by access to capital.

Reducing inequality in the supply chain has been core to the recommended changes that businesses have called for in response to systemic racism.

Sephora was the first retailer to sign onto the 15 Percent Pledge, which calls on businesses to dedicate 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned brands, taking into account that Black people comprise 15% of the U.S. population. This was an important step to create a more equitable market for Black-owned businesses in the retail industry.

At Facebook, we’ve made a commitment to equality via our Supplier Diversity initiative. We’ve set a goal to spend at least $1 billion with diverse suppliers on an annual basis, with at least $100 million going to Black-owned suppliers. These businesses range from construction workers to marketing agencies and more.

2. Share the stage

Sharing the stage helps to amplify historically underrepresented voices. This means leveraging media, programs, and activations to elevate diverse voices and stories. Diverse voices have important, impactful, and inspiring messages to share. However, many voices are stifled by a lack of resources or access to many of the audiences that large brands engage.

An example of a business sharing the stage is Doritos, giving Black artists major outdoor ad space to promote their messages. The effort is part of a new investment that includes a $150 thousand donation to Black Lives Matter. Doritos says its investment in the #AmplifyBlackVoices effort includes giving Black artists the chance to take over $650 thousand worth of its outdoor advertising inventory.

GroupM, WPP’s media investment group, has created a media marketplace of 400 Black and Latinx owned or focused publishers for U.S. clients. Called “The GroupM Multicultural Marketplace,” it aims to raise awareness among clients about independent publishers owned by or serving Black and Latinx audiences, while also providing support to these publishers.

As GroupM already works with many of these media partners, the singular and curated marketplace allows clients to more easily discover publishers and engage them, with flexible investments that can be placed programmatically or directly.

3. Accelerate inclusive representation

Despite living in the year 2021, our biases continue to permeate media, creative, film, and content overall. Businesses have a responsibility as content producers to promote inclusive representation—and eliminate the stereotyping of communities.

Zappos is furthering its support of the differently abled community through its recently launched Single and Different Size Shoes Program. It’s now possible to buy a single shoe or build a pair using different sizes from some of your favorite brands. The program is part of Zappos Adaptive, a dedicated shopping experience featuring functional and fashionable products to make life easier.

In another example of removing harmful bias from marketing and brand creative, Quaker Oats announced it will replace and rename its breakfast brand Aunt Jemima this year, which has been accused of perpetuating a racist stereotype.

At Facebook, we partner with businesses through an initiative to help accelerate inclusive representation—and take a marketing science-based approach that challenges businesses to rethink how they represent people in advertising. We’ve proven that inclusive representation isn’t just good for creative—it’s good for business. We each have a responsibility to close the imagination gap, and allow anyone, in any corner of the world, to see themselves represented in a more equal global economy.

The clock is ticking—we have an opportunity to help make long-lasting and resilient socioeconomic and cultural progress. Let’s commit to a new scorecard for business in 2021 centered around diversifying our dollar, sharing the stage, and accelerating inclusive representation. Let’s reimagine what’s possible and help build back a stronger, more vibrant, and equal economy.