It is a great stain on society that some people have to live differently, socialize differently, interact differently, play differently, and fear differently because of the color of their skin.
I believe in the fundamental human right that everyone is equal- under the law, in deserving protection, to enjoy life: in the streets, in the cities, in the parks, on the bus, in the bars, in school, at work.
I also believe we all deserve to be loved; an expression of that love means putting our foot on the scales of justice whenever we have the opportunity to remove that stain, and only then will we all truly be free.
Don’t be silent. Act now.
Only through social justice does humanity find peace.
As a communicator, sometimes I feel inspired to write phrases, and this is one I wrote inspired by the 2020 BLM movement. It hit me personally due to my dear friends, my philosophy, and I feel a responsibility to drive change. Today it has relevance to the women’s rights movement that suffered a huge blow this week, but it will not be the end of the story because, without social justice, humanity won’t find peace.
Social justice is the pursuit of equality, access, diversity, representation, and human rights for all people regardless of race, gender, LGBTIQ+, economic status, or disability. It recognizes the gap that exists. Therefore, it compels us to appreciate that it’s not just about goals for the future that enable social justice going forward, which are essential, but we also need to fill the gap for those who have been left behind.
I talk about social justice rather than just equality, diversity, and inclusion because social justice is personal and requires more from us. Our personal stories often remind us that social injustice continues to exist. Through those stories, we begin to understand the true impact of daily racism or discrimination in all its forms. We can only imagine the everyday experiences and generational effects of injustice on individuals, their families, and communities: How do you compensate for: the 5-year-old Black boy who was shot by police officers with a BB gun while playing with his friends in the park in the 1970s? The woman with less access to health care that puts their life in jeopardy? The male executive that asks the men in the room how the women are feeling when two women are sitting in the room. A man expressing his shock when he arrives at a meeting because all women are in the lead. I am sure you have your examples.
It is disappointing when you thought more progress on social justice had been made, and you receive a reminder that society has not moved as far as you hoped. We are all frustrated at the slow pace of progress as people continue to suffer from the disparity.
The case for change you already know:
I could write a dissertation here on the benefits to society when everyone can be included in decision-making and participate fully in society. I might amplify the benefits to economic prosperity for all. I could also analyze the world’s democracies and their constitutions and talk about equality, race, religion, gender (federally, the USA, an impactful absence on gender), and disability. I could further discuss healthcare discrimination, the lack of access for Indigenous and minority peoples, and the shameful barriers to women’s health. Or examine the biased examples in law enforcement and the justice system that include examples from across the world. Finally, I could highlight the existing disparities that run counter to women-centered cultures. But those of you reading this already know this case for change through the countless fact-finding and reporting work of dedicated others.
As a society, we have made progress, and we see bright spots:
Recently the UN Global Compacted and Accenture highlighted progress on human rights and diversity and inclusion by the private sector: 92% of companies surveyed have ongoing diversity and inclusion initiatives and are signaling a commitment to build representative workforces in the communities in which they operate (reported by 76% CEOs surveyed). Further, 86% of companies surveyed have non-discrimination policies, and 81% have equal opportunity policies.
However, while the UN Global Compact has highlighted that significant progress has been made, it also highlights that accountability to achieve these metrics needs to be embedded in organizations. It underscores that more strategic implementation is necessary. Put plainly, the effort required to address social injustice goes beyond D&I metrics and requires us all to be more ambitious and holistic in our efforts to enable transformation.
Social justice is a priority for humanity; it should be a passion area for all of us and is essential for every change-making leader.
We need to see more strategies that drive social justice forward yet also bridge the gap of the past. The private sector needs to continue to do more to address both. Having diversity metrics alone is not a strategy.
PR experts often tell brands to be wary of stepping in on social injustice as it may not be relevant to your brand. I have a different view that social injustice is relevant to all of us, whether of race, gender, religion, LGBTIQ+ or economic status. Companies, brands, individuals, and so change-makers must lean in; however, their efforts must be authentic and transparent. It is a matter of when not if, the private sector will be challenged on social justice, whether by activists, organizations such as the UN Global Compact, or investors through ESG performance.
We can’t just hope social justice will get better. We must have a comprehensive plan to address it and implement it fearlessly.
So, in starting to think of a strategy that embraces social justice, start with the five pillars of social justice: equality, access, diversity, representation, and human rights, and then ensure you understand the perceptions of your organization and sector and finally work with others to evolve your policies and strategies.
Steps to transforming social justice for the private sector:
- 1. Understand the current perceptions of your organization and expectations of the external environment through either a materiality assessment or another stakeholder method centered on social justice.
- 2. Consider two questions to develop your plan: A) What can you do from today for the future? And B) how can you address the gap formed by the past inaction or lack of action.
- 3. Build Alliances and Amplify. If you have taken the steps above, advocating for social justice with alliances should be a natural next step.
|Looking to the Future||Closing the gap|
|Build a social justice policy, or bridge your current D&I and Human Rights Policy to social justice by including access, representation, and equality.||The plan should be based on your type of business, location, and topics you are experts on. |
A Healthcare company could look at access to healthcare initiatives that enable Indigenous populations and women’s access to healthcare
A food company could ensure access to food, developing indigenous ingredients, and provide opportunities for youth and underrepresented groups in the food sector.
A pet care company might focus on those with disabilities.
The Service Sector could address education and training by supplying relevant grants and scholarships to those at a disadvantage.
|Ensure that your targets are at least 50:50 gender company-wide and that in-country and global leadership teams reflect the markets you represent. Include those with disabilities and add to metrics and policy.||Do due diligence and look for organizations that work to close the gap, such as the NAACP or White Ribbon Alliance in the USA, and partner with them on the above mutual activities.|
Build reporting into your strategic business planning processes. Beyond the metrics, ensure strategies are in place that goes beyond bias training. Implement fully.
In summary, know you have a role and embrace it, understand your issues and perceptions, and then build representation. Next, find a spot to make your mark (place your foot on the scale) in an area of need that energizes you, your business, and is related to your brand. Make sure efforts are authentic and transparent, and you communicate about your journey to reach the goal. Build alliances and amplify to make further social justice progress and have an impact.
Today, we have a way to go on social justice, and sometimes it feels like we are going in the wrong direction; change-making leaders need resilience and courage and to participate actively to remove the stains that still exist. We must keep purposely driving towards achieving social justice, so humanity finds peace.
Accessed 11 March. UN Global Compact. March 2021. “Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Spotlight.”