In a rather reflective mindspace this weekend
I read a linked in post by CEO of the Co-op, Steve Murrells today.
In Steve's post, alongside a picture of him standing outside the national grocer and retailer, Sainsbury's plc, he stated:
On first reading this sounded very positive. But I became curious as to what drove this. The microaggressions and mealy mouthed outcry from some sections of the British public had happened some weeks earlier.
So I think this is an opportunity for one of the ‘difficult conversation’ - plus some deep reflection.
I noted in October my commitment to change from whom I bought my groceries.
As the Co-op is one of the stores I've committed to supporting, I've done my online shopping and taken an interest in their social media as well.
This post was more worrying than heartening.
I don't want to take away from this statement of Co-op's solidarity with Sainsbury's against racism. It is great. But I do wonder what it goes on to accomplish.
I took a review of the evidence of any other visual, ie public facing, anti-racism activity of Sainsbury's and Co-op during this year.
Sainsbury’s appear to have started their journey of #impactfulAllyship well before the major events on 25 May that prompted the global #BLM responses.
So it makes sense that the general public would see more than performative allyship from this retailer.
In October, Sainsbury's adjusted its social media logo, in commemoration of #blackhistorymonth
That month, many HUNDREDS corporates who changed up their logos previously that year, did not take this visible, public action in October.
When I asked one of the major banks why they weren't following suit, they stated they were 'doing real activity, not just visuals'.
As a member of the public all I see of a company's actions is what they do (or don't do) and what they say.
In October I saw where companies like Sainsbury's and Argos, and charities like Mencap stood on the issue of celebrating equality and diversity.
I wasn't shook to see a stable black family reflected in one of the triptych of Xmas adverts Sainsbury's put out to round off the year. To me this was Sainsbury's demonstrating its business as usual ("BAU") approach to celebrating diversity in the British public.
What is the 'right' thing to do?
Well, firstly, it definitely isn't to do nothing because of a fear you'll upset people!
It IS right to demonstrate #ImpactulAllyship and actual anti-racism. Having corporate systems that embed - not just challenge - the unconscious bias we all have is a good place to start. Even better is to deliberately and consistently celebrate our diversity as a nation.
The changes need to be seen in everyday operations, the content of a company's social media presence, in its staff or board recruitment and retention, the breadth of product choice available for customers, and yes, even in national Xmas marketing and publicity campaigns.
Impactful allyship is a journey. It is a process, not a period in time. A company that is focussed on the innovation and edge from a diverse workforce and customer base gets the most out of it by starting this journey early.
And if not already started, then managers and company leaders need to take a good hard look at how their commitment to diversity in all its glorious forms shows up in their day to day.
The first steps for action - not just standing in solidarity, but by walking the talk as an embedded part of the corporates BAU.
So, to all the Steve Murrells showing up for this issue: I celebrate your solidarity. Se it as the start of the journey of committed action within the day to day retail and corporate operations of Co-op.
And I'd be happy to help you get great momentum on this journey!