Ideas for Change Include Tapping Into Local Communities and Redistributing Wealth Through Remote Work

(Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels)

Dear U.S. Capitalism,

It’s me again, Social Work.

A lot has happened since we last spoke, and I’m not gonna lie — I’m pretty proud of you. Activists and academics who have been fighting for racial justice for a long time, along with longtime social justice-committed businesses like Ben & Jerry’s, are finally getting more of your allyship:

  • Large corporations, including Verizon, Microsoft, Starbucks, Ford, Patagonia, REI, and North Face, are following a call-to-action from leading civil rights groups to stop paid advertising on social media platforms that they believe should be held accountable for allowing hate speech and divisive content. And social media companies are responding with changes of their own.
  • Businesses, like Sephora and Rent the Runway, are committing 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned brands by signing onto the 15 Percent Pledge.
  • NASCAR officially prohibited the confederate flag from being displayed at any NASCAR event or property.
  • Beauty product makers, like Unilever and Johnson & Johnson, are replacing product language and advertising that implicitly promote the ideology of white/fair skin as superior.
  • People in power, like Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian, are giving up their Board of Directors seats to make room for greater Black representation in boardrooms.

And much more.

To keep the dialogue going, I humbly offer seven considerations as we move forward and companies revisit their social responsibilities. So, yes to all you’re doing and …

Let’s give up something else, like grossly unequal compensation ratios.

The massive wealth disparities in our economy are part of what maintains racial injustice. Each company can do its part in addressing the economy’s role in racial justice by making its highest-to-lowest-paid-employee ratio lower and, better yet, becoming employee-owned.

Let’s use the growing trend toward remote work as a way to redistribute wealth rather than exploit lower-socioeconomic communities.

It would be unfortunate if remotely distributed workforces were used as an opportunity to cut costs by paying remote workers less based on where they live.

Let’s use our incredible pools of social capital and knowledge to build relationships with local communities and provide more internships to next-generation youth from disadvantaged communities.

In impoverished neighborhoods, especially ones that are heavily impacted by incarceration and broken families, many parents have to work multiple jobs at minimum wage or do shift work, which may leave children unattended during parts of the day. Low socioeconomic circumstances can lead to lack of supervision or recreational opportunities for youth, which are risk factors for maladaptive behaviors like substance abuse and youth violence. Addressing the economic conditions takes time, but supporting youth in our communities with internships and opportunities to learn new industries are powerful and immediate action items. Maybe it’s providing internships directly or partnering with organizations like Coded by Kids in Philadelphia. Plus, how many people in your company right now can provide you with the perspective of a teenager? Likely none.

Let’s hire more social workers, activists, and community organizing professionals in corporate jobs to enhance human-centered and community-minded perspectives.

In a recent article with Rolling Out, Ben & Jerry’s U.S. Activism Manager Jabari Paul talks about the value of hiring people from non-traditional corporate backgrounds, such as advocacy, to shift company culture. In addition to advancing human justice from the inside out, I believe it can also have a great impact on the bottom line through more empathic communication and business relations, improved employee and community engagement, and proactive decision making that avoids unforeseen social justice missteps. These individuals don’t have to necessarily be in distinct activist or social impact positions — they can be in business development, marketing, product design, etc. All departments have the opportunity to be a mechanism for social justice. Think outside the box and give these professionals a second look when they apply. After all, businesses are community resources.

Let’s review how our companies are potentially profiting unfairly from cultural appropriation.

For example, the famous Shinnecock Hills Golf Club of the Hamptons is built on top of sacred land (and burial grounds) stolen in 1859 from the Shinnecock Indian Nation, whose reservation now is just a few miles from the golf course. The golf course uses the Shinnecock name and the face of a Native American man as the logo. Appreciation is great, appropriation is not. So when possible, let’s engage with the communities we benefit from to get permission, determine reparations, and find ways to move forward together.

Let’s be proactive to make sure the growing sector of remote work and online education doesn’t increase economic exclusion.

We need to consider people with certain physical disabilities, those living in unstable/unsupportive home environments, and those who lack availability to technology.

And, finally, let’s get more businesses to join the Certified B Corporation movement.

Locking in a commitment to use business as a force for good can only generate more momentum, partnerships, and collective learning toward a more equitable economy.

I’ll close by sharing a popular West African word shared with me during graduate school: “Sankofa.” The word translates to “retrieving the past is no taboo, thus says the ancestors.” During this time of learning, unlearning, and reckoning, I couldn’t think of a better word for guidance. As a business community, let’s look back at what has been done, make repairs, and be proactive for future generations.

B the Change gathers and shares the voices from within the movement of people using business as a force for good and the community of Certified B Corporations. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the nonprofit B Lab.

Dear U.S. Capitalism: Here Are 7 Ways to Build Social Activism was originally published in B The Change on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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