When it comes to brands responding to the Black Lives Matter movement, consumers value internal diversity practices more than things like making charitable donations and supportive social media posts, according to new data from market research firm GlobalWebIndex.
The July online survey reached 18 countries, with 15,271 responses (including 1,351 in the United States). The international response to BLM was strongest in China, the Philippines, India, Brazil and South Africa, where consumers said the movement had made tackling racism a more important issue for them personally. China’s response was well above the rest, with 65% of respondents saying BLM had created a new urgency around racial justice. In other countries, including Spain and Italy, people said that racism had already been an ongoing important issue.
U.S. consumers ages 16-64 were asked which actions brands should take out of nine options, including posting on social media, donating money and supporting community initiatives. The responses were broken out into three main age groups: Gen Z/millennials, Gen X and baby boomers.
Across all three groups, U.S. consumers agreed that the three most important actions brands can take to support the movement for racial justice are: reviewing hiring policies, ensuring diversity in management teams, and ensuring diversity in their supply chains.
These actions were followed by an interest in brands supporting community initiatives, and among Gen Z and Millennials, by asking for feedback from both employees and customers.
“For consumers, actions matter more than words,” said Virna Sekuj, GlobalWebIndex strategic consumer insights manager for the Americas, in a blog post about the study. “The performative allyship that too often characterizes the corporate response isn’t enough—people are likely to perceive it as insincere, ineffective and perhaps even exploitative of a serious issue if not met with real efforts by companies to change their own business culture.”
As with many social justice issues, the strongest response came from the youngest population. The survey found that Gen Z and millennials based in the U.S. were 60% more likely than Gen X—and nearly twice as likely as boomers—to say that the Black Lives Matter movement has made tackling racism more important to them.
The movement for racial justice saw a massive resurgence at the start of June, when anti-police brutality protests broke out following the police killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd. Since then, the business sector has faced a reckoning when it comes to diversity and inclusion, with conversations about both internal and external approaches to race taking place in every industry.
But when it comes to brands, consumers don’t just want to see black squares being tweeted for #BlackOutTuesday or donations being sent to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. They want to see retail chains diversify by carrying more Black-owned brands, as Sephora and West Elm recently pledged to do. They want to see brands use more multicultural agencies creating campaigns. They want to see more Black founders funded by venture capital, and more diversity in hiring and promotions to leadership.
Through a multi-pronged approach to diversity, brands can help ensure they are doing more to create a sustainable economic base for communities of color that will continue to grow into the future—rather than just temporarily throwing money and words at the problem of racism.