It's time for brands to put their money - and their people - where their mouth is
A view from Adam Kleinberg

It's time for brands to put their money - and their people - where their mouth is

Marketers should be champions of social justice benefits.

There is a growing trend of companies introducing "social justice benefits" offering paid leave to employees to help drive social change. Marketers should take note—and become champions of them in their organizations.

The brutal murder of George Floyd, and chain reaction of civil unrest in its wake, has led many brands to acknowledge they have a responsibility to play their part in driving social justice reform. It is clear that the government on its own simply does not have the political will to make change happen. 

I look on LinkedIn and see business leaders making statements about the need for change... It's time to put your money where your mouth is. It's time for "Corporate Social Responsibility" to take on a greater meaning. 

It's time for action. 

Words ring hollow without action. And while donations are meaningful, the contributions of business to social justice must become as endemic as the problem of systemic racism itself. 

Today, the concept of corporate social responsibility is simply greater.

Three years ago, right after the Women’s March that followed Trump’s inauguration, Traction, the brand experience consultancy I run, introduced a policy called "Days of Action." In it, we gave employees two days of incremental paid leave each year to peacefully participate in democracy, however they see fit—and regardless of their political affiliation. 

When I published a post on "Why we’re offering paid leave for activism," it went viral. We soon found ourselves amidst a firestorm of global news stories and vicious trolls. Breitbart published an inflammatory headline that companies like Traction and Facebook, who gave employees paid leave to participate in May Day rallies, were evidence that some anti-Trump protesters were paid." There were threats of violence and calls for boycott. We were called fascists and communists, snowflakes and candyasses.

At the time, we stated that we wanted to see the two Days of Action for our employees at Traction become two million days of action from like-minded companies around the country.

Today, more and more companies are introducing their own versions of "Days of Action" programs—from restaurant chain, &pizza, offering 3 days of annual PTO for activism to their 700 employees to PwC offering 5 days per year for its 55,0000 US employees to volunteer for non-profits as part of a series of new policies meant to combat racism.

Business has power. It’s time to unleash it. 

Social justice benefits will become a major tool to do that. As the trend takes hold, your customers—the millions of them braving a pandemic to take to the streets in peaceful protest across the country—will demand it. 

 

In the war for talent, your employees will too. A Glassdoor survey found more than 50 percent of workers believe they should have time off to advocate for social change, regardless of their politics.

Most of all, it’s your responsibility as a corporate citizen to commit to using the resources at your disposal to drive social justice. 

Adam Kleinberg is the CEO and co-founder of Traction.

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