Welcome to #TRVSTLOVES. We curate news, ideas, and inspiration from across the world, demonstrating how real action can accomplish a positive social impact. This time we’re talking about activism and how both businesses and people are reacting to the social, political, and environmental events of today.
A guide to doing business in 2020, published in October 2020, is a really interesting piece. It explores the pressures businesses now face to “do the right thing” from an internal perspective (employees who want to work for a business with good ethics) and an external one too (customers who want to buy from a business with good ethics).
It’s simply not enough these days for businesses to “do nothing”; they are watched closely on social media, and there are growing expectations that those with a platform should have a voice around social injustice, policy, or politics.
In many ways, Gen Z and Millennials have changed activism, which is down to a greater presence online. Social platforms are providing a place for education; they also offer a way of organizing rallies and protests which reach thousands of people in minutes. Just in the last six months, Instagram has instituted several changes to their ads policies to provide greater transparency around social issues, elections, and politics, which suggests these issues are now commonplace on the platform.
As for businesses speaking up more, they may find that one of the first places they need to consider having a “voice” could well be on their social channels.
We’ve just mentioned that young people utilize technology to rally around important issues, but we can’t forget that lockdown has meant they’ve probably spent even more time online than usual, therefore increasing their exposure to campaigns and political movements.
During a year that included Black Lives Matter and Climate Change marches, it’s been a period of time that has contributed to a change in youth activism. It might be surprising to learn that Covid has also driven young people to realize the importance of the vote. In the US, the turnout of young voters surged in response to issues like the pandemic, racism, and climate change.
It’s a similar story in Europe, where the latest elections saw voters under 25 increase by 14 percentage points compared to the 2014 election. Interestingly the stats differ in the UK, where there’s been no increase in young voters (one reason for this might be the perception of “safe seats” in which particular parties are guaranteed to always win). In general, though, there’s certainly a feeling that young people are not only more aware of current issues but more willing to try and do something about them, which is a great catalyst for real progress and change.
The fashion industry hasn’t been without its fair share of activism, particularly around the fur industry, but a new Milan-based brand is bringing activism to fashion in the broader sense. Anti-do-to wants to create change through sustainable fashion, social projects, and content. It’s quite a goal, but as you land on their homepage, their bold “what is poisoning our future” text hits you, leaving each visitor with no doubt that this organization definitely has something to say.
Impressively, 50% of Anti-to-do’s net profits go to social projects around the world, which certainly puts pressure on other companies to review their philanthropic approaches. Their key causes sit around wellbeing, inclusion, community, and planet, but importantly, they aren’t just a company that knows how to use the right words. Their debut social project has been to help the Gaza Freestyle complete Ha’Ramba, a DIY skatepark in the port of Gaza City, which supports their community ambitions.
We’ve mentioned Patagonia before in our small businesses with a big message edition, but they’re worth another mention here as we talk about companies who have become well known for what they stand for and not just what they sell. Back in 1986, Patagonia committed to donating 10% of profits each year to groups working to save or restore habitats; this evolved to 1% of all sales, which is a commitment still going strong today. It could be perceived that Patagonia used to be a maverick, but now activism is mainstream, which is a reflection of the increasing pressure that companies now face to be more than the product or service they offer.
Following the unsettled year of 2020, evidently, many leaders have turned their focus to immediate issues such as the welfare of their employees and the fate of their communities. But is it enough? Will businesses face further pressure to pick a side, pick a policy, or a social injustice and show clear evidence that they are committed to the cause? We expect that, like anything, if the competition is doing it right, it will increase pressure on those who are not to make radical changes.
We’ve spoken a fair bit about activism in business, but it’s stories like these that are also really important to share, especially when they show such courage in difficult circumstances and surroundings. Amanda Nomnqa grew up in Ivory Park, a poverty-stricken community in South Africa with high unemployment and teenage pregnancy rates.
Amanda realized there was a huge lack of support for women and girls. So in 2018, she founded the non-profit organization SheIsBrave, which helps young girls and women to “unleash the full potential and bravery that comes with resilience”.
It can be easy to forget the real meaning of activism, but actually, it refers to any person or business willing to fight to bring about political or social change. “Bravery” and “resilience” are great words for Amanda to have chosen to describe her business, they are attributes that come hand in hand with any activist movement. It requires stepping outside of comfort zones, challenging the status quo, and standing up for what they believe is right.