As US citizens and people across the world continue to protest the long history of police brutality and systematic racism, including the unlawful deaths of black Americans including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many others, behind the scenes wellness brands have been scrambling to communicate their own responses.
In a show of solidarity and shared values that have been similarly expressed for previous crises –– the most recent being COVID-19, posts of support and empathy have flooded social media timelines and the hashtag #blacklivesmatter has become a common signifier for the cause.
But, when the movement stops trending many are already questioning how these brands will continue to drive progress beyond the superficial and performative demonstrations of support that have become commonplace in modern marketing. The wellness industry in particular, which has long been called out for its lack of racial diversity, representation and accessibility, has a long way to go operationally if it is to create real and lasting change.
As Sarah Greenidge, founder of Wellspoken — an accreditation scheme, aimed at putting credible content at the forefront of wellness suggests, the time is now to “proactively shake the table” and “start addressing the problems that are in our own front yard”.
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TIME TO CHANGE Message from the founder @sarah_greenidge This week has been a heavy week for many of us. But there is an opportunity to adjust and realign ourselves in every corner that we inhabit. Unfortunately the wellness industry is not exempt from racism, discrimination and micro-aggressions which all contribute to widening the health inequality gap for many black and brown people. Here we provide a few short steps that make a start of addressing the issues that are in our own front yard. If you are in the wellness industry and support the cause, please share. #diversityinwellness #blackouttuesday #diversityandinclusion #diversityeducation #wellness
This isn’t a moment but a long term movement that requires collective and sustained action, so we’ll be tracking how wellness brands put their pledges into practice over the coming months and years.
However, here are just some examples of the wellness brands that are already laying out the steps they will be taking to drive industry-wide change moving forward.
The Nue Co.
Premium supplement brand The Nue Co. is known for its transparency and honesty when it comes to addressing the failings of the wellness industry and how as a business it is committed to challenging consumers’ current relationship with wellness.
As an early response to the protests in the US, founder Jules Miller took to Instagram to explain that when she first started The Nue Co., she wrote out a list of non-revenue related goals.
“One of them said ‘Health should be universal. It should transcend race, age, culture, gender and sexuality’. Wellness has always been a white person’s industry and we wanted to change that,” she commented.
Adding: “We have regrouped as a business to decide what the best course of action should be. As a team, we all feel the pain, frustration and sadness of the black community and collectively we’ve decided this: it’s not enough to talk about how we feel, we must DO THE WORK – work that will impact how we operate as a business forever, not just this week.”
To begin that journey the brand created a survey for its black community to better understand what they think wellness brands should be doing to better support and represent them. It has already been sharing some of the feedback with its audience and pledges to work through the insights and use them to inform its mission of continuing to make the wellness industry more inclusive.
British-born activewear brand Gymshark has said it is working closely with its team, athletes, and its entire community to unite against injustice and make a genuine difference, not just a statement.
It has also begun to share the experiences of members of its black community to highlight what is going on in America right now.
The brand is yet to outline what active steps it will be taking moving forward.
Wellness lifestyle publication Well+Good has acknowledged that both the wellness industry in general and itself as a business has “a lot of work to do to become a truly, meaningfully diverse, inclusive, and welcoming space.”
In a recent Instagram post, the brand wrote: “While we strive to create content for and by people of different backgrounds and experiences, the steps we’ve made to date in this space have not been enough. We need to do better, do more, make real, meaningful changes – we have a lot of work to do. And we promise to stop settling for the status quo.”
The brand has pledged to
- Ensure that a large portion of its freelance editorial budget goes toward Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Colour (BIPOC) writers and content creators⠀
- Amplify BIPOC voices and messages, fairly pay them for their work and align with charities and organizations that do the same⠀
- Work with its HR teams to further move the needle on all BIPOC and marginalized group hirings, particularly black individuals, in order to better represent the world we live in.
In addition to a $500K donation to @naacp_ldf, cult at-home cycling brand Peloton has acknowledged that it has more work to do.
It encouraged its riders to get involved by
- Joining the #BlackLivesMatter tag and ride, run or flow with fellow members in support and solidarity
- Speaking up and speaking out against racism
- Learning ways to practice anti-racism
- Donating to NAACP LDF
The brand has said that it will continue to use its voice, platform, and resources to fight injustice,
It has not laid out specifically how it plans on doing so yet but has been sharing the perspectives and experiences of its black community to highlight the racial inequalities that currently exist.
Sportswear giant Nike was quick to insert itself into the conversation with a powerful reimagining of its iconic slogan ‘Just Do It’.
For once, ‘Don’t Do It’ began the campaign, before stating: “Don’t pretend there’s not a problem in America. Don’t turn your back on racism. Don’t accept innocent lives being taken from us. Don’t make any more excuses. Don’t think this doesn’t affect you. Don’t sit back and be silent.”
However, the company has since been criticised for its internal practices not reflecting its words –– especially when it comes to the racial make-up of its senior leadership structure which is disproportionately white.
In response, Nike CEO John Donahoe sent an email to employees on Friday noting that the company must fix its own operations, CNBC reports.
“While we strive to help shape a better society, our most important priority is to get our own house in order,” Donahoe admitted. “Nike needs to be better than society as a whole […] While we have made some progress over the past couple of years, we have a long way to go.”
The company also added that it would be donating $40mover four years to support Black communities and initiatives.
Makers of Plant-based meat Impossible Foods put out a statement to highlight how systemic racism has broken the food system for many people, particularly black communities in the US.
“We want to help promote organizations that protect, support and nourish people that the system has failed — in our hometowns and throughout America,” read a company post on Facebook
In addition to donating more than 500,000 Impossible Burgers to at-risk communities in the past two months, the brand has said it is organizing a donation to Acta Non Verba — a coalition creating a safe and creative outdoor space for children, youth and families in Oakland.
It has also asked its followers to support organizations fighting for a sustainable food system for all.
Aspirational athleisure brand lululemon has come forward to admit that as a business it hasn’t always got it right.
In an Instagram post entitled ‘Words have power, actions have more power’ the company assured its community it would be increasing investment in company education, behaviour change and diverse representation and better using its platform to stand for social justice and inclusion.
It has also made a $100,000 donation to the Minnesota Freedom Fund.
Boutique fitness brand Barry’s sent out an email to its community addressing its commitment to its employees, clients and supporters. The high-intensity fitness brand announced it would be donating 100% of its profits this week to British charity: Give Racism The Red Card, as well as sharing educational resources for its customers to read.
“This is more than just a one-off donation”, claimed the brand.