How 5 Major CPG Brands Are Working to End Racial Inequality

Racial diversity. Racial inclusion. Racial equity. Even if we strip away the fundamental fact that these are righteous human behaviors, upholding them would still be good for business. While the history of American capitalism can at times take the brunt of the blame for today’s racial inequality, it’s my belief that private businesses have the most power to create a more inclusive and diverse society. To become change agents, businesses must evolve beyond shareholder capitalism and embrace the more inclusive stakeholder version. As Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Today’s business leaders weren’t the starting point for racial inequality, but they can play a key part in changing it.

By exploring how several major CPG brands are advancing racial equality in the United States, I hope this article will serve as an inspiration to seek change within your own organization. It’s also important to remember that every company’s initiatives will look different, so I’ve attempted to highlight a varied collection of examples.

Mountain Dew Looks to Make a Real Change

Mountain Dew is partnering with PepsiCo-affiliated Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to discover and invest in the next generation of Black entrepreneurs. The MTN DEW Real Change Opportunity Fund is an Ideas Pitch Competition with an annual prize pool of $1 million. As its name might suggest, the Mountain Dew brand is all about supporting doers, and that’s exactly what entrepreneurs personify. Mountain Dew wants to empower HBCU students to turn their innovative ideas into sustainable businesses, which would in turn help shrink the historic wealth gap and broaden the potential for Black generational wealth. To extend its impact, Mountain Dew is also partnering with ViacomCBS to bring the finalists’ inspirational stories to life.

Ben & Jerry’s “Who We Are” Podcast

Since its founding more than four decades ago, Ben & Jerry’s has been an active participant in economic and social justice conservations in America. While it has deployed several different strategies to promote activism over the years, it’s go-to move is to launch special ice cream flavors that raise awareness about social justice issues. In September 2019, the company released a limited-edition “Justice Remix’d” flavor and action campaign dedicated to criminal justice reform. It brought back the flavor in October 2020 with a new, urgent message to young people: use your power and vote. A few months later, Ben & Jerry’s announced another new social justice-focused flavor called “Colin Kaepernick’s Change the Whirled.”

But that’s not all the company is doing to promote causes related to racial equality. In September 2020, Ben & Jerry’s launched a podcast in partnership with The Who We Are Project. The six-episode series called “Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America” focuses on a side of American history that often isn’t taught in the traditional education system. Ben & Jerry’s hopes the information presented in the podcast will allow audiences to acknowledge the nation’s past evils while also being encouraged to move together in dismantling systemic racism.

Bud Light “Thursday Night Shoutout”

Compared to their white-owned counterparts, Black-owned small businesses were about two and a half times more likely to have closed from February to April 2020 because of the economic effects caused by COVID-19. While it’s unknown just how many Black-owned bars and restaurants closed last year, the industry has arguably been the most affected by the coronavirus pandemic and its associated operating restrictions. To promote Black-owned bars and restaurants that have faced financial hardship during the pandemic, Bud Light launched the “Thursday Night Shoutout” campaign. Each week during “Thursday Night Football,” Bud Light airs a commercial that highlights a a Black-owned bar or restaurant in the host city of the football game. The beer brand has also partnered with EatOkra, a directory app for Black-owned restaurants, to shine light on how viewers can help similar local businesses.

Procter & Gamble’s 4-Point Plan

The world’s largest CPG advertiser has a powerful voice. That voice is typically used to communicate with consumers about the value propositions of their nearly 300 brands. In a distinctly bold short film named “The Choice,” which features zero brand promotion, P&G pleads with white consumers to acknowledge their privilege and their responsibility to take action in the fight against racial injustice. The film is accompanied by extensive online educational resources, as well as a racial equality roadmap for P&G’s brands.

Here are a few of the roadmap’s key steps:

  1. Representation: Ensure representation throughout the entire creative supply chain fully reflects the world in which we live. Achieve 40 percent multicultural representation within P&G.
  2. Investment: Accelerate buying system changes to significantly increase investments in Black-owned or operated businesses.
  3. Advertising Portrayal: Advertising affects perceptions, so P&G will ensure all its content accurately and respectfully portrays Black people – and all people.
  4. Advertising Practices: Ensure advertising partners meet P&G’s standards for respectful portrayal of all people. Do not advertise on or near content that is hateful, denigrating or discriminatory.

Johnson & Johnson Aims to Eliminate Health Inequalities

While non-white Americans make up just under 24 percent of the country’s population, they account for 45 percent of all COVID-19 cases and 40 percent of all COVID-19 deaths. There’s no evidence of genetic or other biological factors that are causing minorities to be disproportionately affected by coronavirus. Instead, various social, environmental and economic determinants are the root cause of such health inequalities. That’s why Johnson & Johnson committed $100 million to invest in and promote health equity solutions for Black people and other communities of color in the United States. These investments include new scholarships to improve representation of people of color in medical, scientific and health professions, mobile health solutions that put services within reach of underserved populations, and increased access to and participation in clinical trials. Johnson & Johnson is also leveraging its massive network to create enduring alliances that will develop and expand programs to close the health gap.

Conclusion

The business world has been presented with a monumental opportunity. This could be the critical inflection point for addressing racial inequality in a deeply profound way. While there is no singularly best way to fix a complex problem like racial injustice, businesses must understand their role and responsibility in the process.

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