By Reed Shapiro, on behalf of the CCC Team
These past few weeks of civic unrest in the United States in the wake of George Floyd’s murder have brought a critical moment in history to our doorstep.
Peaceful protests and violent riots alike have reignited a sense of urgency in addressing the fact that non-white citizens of this country are to this day treated like second-class citizens, and indeed modern-day slaves at a systematic level—in terms of finances, health, education, public safety and too many more categories.
While I was not alive to experience the Civil Rights Movement, I see many people and organizations saying that we have not seen a fervor for change, nor as deep an ideological division in society since that time or ever. Paired with the reality that we are still in the grips of a pandemic that keeps many of us are at home with not much to do, there’s no way to dodge the airing of grievances. There is no way to avoid listening because the message is either on every media outlet, or literally in the streets outside our windows.
And the biggest issue of all: sitting on the bench or the sidelines with no horse in the race is no longer an option. From what I can surmise, the collective message to ‘the system’ (i.e. white people, businesses, institutions, anything or anyone that contributes to people of color facing disadvantages in society on a daily basis), is that if you are not actively building an inclusive, just, and empowering future for everyone, then you are reinforcing the current norm of white supremacy.
It doesn’t seem that white supremacy has ever before been on trial quite like this.
Furthermore, simply denouncing white supremacy, and saying “we stand with the BIPOC community,” the way that most large corporates have done fairly successfully up until now is no longer enough (think how LGBTQI month was suddenly so important to every retailer last year). This is table stakes—your social license to operate. These are the basics that should have been a part of business long ago.
CCC has always been a company devoted to bringing about an inclusive future—the very commodities we sell result in the improvement of life for non-white people in poor, rural and disadvantaged and indigenous communities around the world. Our office has always been predominantly female and non-white. I have often been the only white male team member. We know diverse teams are better and we are thankful to be one. But these past few weeks have left me thinking, “so what? You’ve got your ante chips in, but what are we really doing when it comes to this task of building anti-racism into our business model in a definitive way?” As a team, we’ve been asking the same question.
We, admittedly, have not identified as a social or racial justice organization. We have been wondering whether it would be authentic for us to post anything in the wake of the calls for social media black-outs to make space for informative posts about racial issues. We’ve ultimately committed to only using our channels, this week and last, for the purposes of sharing information that will either help people donate to veritable organizations that advance racial equality, learn about how they can take positive action personally and interpersonally, and take political action to see change happen.
Still, this is a cosmetic address of a systemic problem. We need something more meaningful than words and information sharing.
Our commitment to donate 1% of our annual revenue to non-profit organizations, and our benefit corporation certification, which ensure we deliver material positive impact in addition to our daily operations seem to be good candidates for ways to take concrete action. With all of the information we’ve circulated in our own posts alone recently, we can surely align our existing commitments with organizations focused on social justice and racial equality in an authentic way. As we grow and take on different service providers and channel partners there will be opportunities to hire and partner with black-owned and non-white firms, and plans to do so can be created and internalized now.
I often sit at the other side of this table—convincing clients that publicly communicating intent towards a goal, without a concrete plan can be permissible if done properly. However, setting slowly expanding carbon reduction goals are benign compared to this, and as I sit writing these commitments CCC and each of us on the team intend to make, I finally feel the fear of scrutiny for being half-baked.
Nevertheless, we’ve decided to taste our own medicine and say openly—we believe our collective potential as humans cannot be achieved unless we dismantle white supremacy, and our climate commitments (future as a species) will be undermined unless and until we do. We are not perfect here. We still need to take the time to understand how we can actually leverage our privilege for others without it most optimally. But we are taking this critical moment in history seriously as an opportunity to improve the way we do business to make legitimate contributions towards a better world for everyone, and will be taking action in short order.