While some brands posted about the issue and/or blacked out their social media feeds for a day to show support, there were calls for more than platitudes. There were calls to donate and do more—including greater inclusion in the workplace, too, through the #PullUporShutUp movement, created by Sharon Chuter, founder and CEO of Uoma Beauty, who recognized that cosmetics companies must do more than pay lip service to fight racial injustice.
“The trigger for me was seeing all these brands post for George Floyd and blacking out their Instagram on Tuesday,” Chuter told Forbes.com. “And I just thought, why are you absolving yourselves of the role you’ve played in creating this problem? How are you not seeing the connection between your depriving people of color of economic opportunities and the oppression?”
According to Chuter, just 8% of people employed in white collar professions are black and only 3.2% of them are in executive or senior management roles, even though blacks account for 13% of the US population.
With those statistics in hand, she launched a campaign that calls on companies to release the total number of black employees at their companies and to identify their employment levels.
Dozens of companies signed on, including Glossier, L’Oréal and Ulta Beauty. The campaign ran for 72 hours, and when it ended, Chuter called out brands that hadn’t responded, like Nike and Adidas as well as high profile beauty players, too; Kylie Cosmetics, Estée Lauder, P&G Beauty, Revlon, Sephora and Unilever have since posted their employee breakdowns.
Chuter called Pull Up or Shut Up just the first step in a larger plan to change the corporate system. Ultimately, she hopes transparency will lead to the creation of independent diversity boards to ensure that all people, white, black, Asian, Latin, Native American and LGBTQ+ are represented.
Actions, Not Just Words
Collectively, we all need to listen a lot more; learn a lot more; do a lot more; and most importantly take action. While not an exhaustive list by any means, we’ve compiled a snapshot of what beauty, home care and personal care companies announced in days and weeks that followed.
Glossier has pledged a $1 million donation, with half earmarked as grants for black-owned beauty brands. Glossier says its grant program is focused on beauty companies in the US in various stages of their business journey—from $10K for pre-launch business with a finalized business plan and plans to launch within the next 12 months, to $50K for growth-stage businesses that have launched more than 12 months ago and are working to scale operations. Applications for the grants were due July 3, according to the company. Organizations that the beauty business will back include Black Lives Matter, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Marsh P. Johnson Institute.
Grande Cosmetics donated $25,000 to the NAACP. Additionally, through the month of June, 10% of all proceeds from its website sales were earmarked to be donated to the NAACP with a goal of $50,000 or more.
Clorox—maker of cleaners and wipes, and parent to Burt’s Bees—announced that it would make an initial donation of $2.5 million focusing on three areas: supporting Black businesses in its communities impacted by recent events; engaging Black youth who represent the future; and accelerating Black community access to justice and criminal justice reform.
Procter & Gamble created a fund with an initial contribution of $5 million for organizations that it said were striving for equality and justice.
“For years, we have used our voice as a leading advertiser to shine a light on inequality, highlight bias, and spark dialogue that leads to understanding and action. We’ve brought companies together for collective action. And we’ve made equality a priority within our own walls. But that’s not enough. More is needed. Now...Together with our brands, we are doubling down on these efforts and establishing a fund with an initial contribution of $5 million to accelerate and expand this work alongside organizations that fight for justice, advance economic opportunity, enable greater access to education and health care and make our communities more equitable,” the company said in a statement.
P&G’s Take On Race Fund will support what the company described as larger, established organizations in North America like the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, YWCA Stand Against Racism and the United Negro College Fund. P&G’s fund will also include smaller organizations such as Courageous Conversation, and groups that hold elected officials more accountable.
But P&G also noted that more than financial support was needed to drive change.
“Our leaders are speaking up and speaking out on what we believe. Our employees are becoming even more involved in their local communities. Our brands are creating programs that advance people of color in science and technology, among many areas. And we’re using our position as a leading corporate citizen to convene others for a bigger, collective impact,” P&G’s statement read.
Huda Beauty, which has pledged to donate $500,000 to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, posted this message on Instagram: “At Huda Beauty we stand against racism today and always. Now is a time to listen, learn and reflect. We are joining in the fight against systemic racism, and we encourage those who aren’t familiar with the Black Lives Matter movement to educate themselves and take action.”
Shave and grooming brands Harry’s (along with its sister brand Flamingo) pledged to donate $500,000 to organizations that combat racism and support mental health care access for Black communities. The company also said it is “committed to looking inward to see how we can be better as an organization and as individuals.”
DevaCurl, which is now part of Henkel, pledged a $50,000 donation to Black Lives Matter, and says it will be sharing resources and links to organizations making an impact.
Anastasia Beverly Hills pledged $1 million toward the fight against systemic racism, oppression and injustice, beginning with a $100,000 donation to several organizations including NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Black Lives Matter and The Innocence Project among others.
L’Oréal will donate more than $500,000 to organizations like the NAACP, Black Lives Matter and the Minnesota Freedom Fund among others. The company also announced the formation of a Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board that will include diverse voices from inside and outside the company and will develop a comprehensive, company-wide action plan on anti-racism.
Neutrogena is pledging to fight against systemic racism, oppression and injustice, beginning with a $100,000 donation to several organizations including NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Black Lives Matter and The Innocence Project.
The Honest Company says it will donate $100,000 to organizations fighting racial injustice, including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Equal Justice Initiative. Additionally, Honest has committed to matching all employee donations made toward civil rights organizations.
Founder of Native Atlas, Alexia Wambua, is making a financial contribution to The Conscious Kid Organization, an education, research and policy organization dedicated to reducing bias and promoting positive identity development in youth that partners with organizations, children’s museums, schools and families to promote access to children’s books centering on underrepresented and oppressed groups.
Hourglass Cosmetics announced that it would donate $100,000 to the NAACP, Black Lives Matter, Marsha P. Johnson Institute, Loveland Foundation and Thurgood Marshall College Fund.
Acaderma said it would donate 100% of June’s sales to NAACP and Black Girls Code, dedicated to educating and empowering young girls.
Deciem has donated $100,000 across Black Lives Matter and The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund.
The Estée Lauder Companies Inc. announced its Commitment to Act on Racial Equity in the US, which includes a pledge to give, including through The Estée Lauder Companies Charitable Foundation and the company’s matching of employee gifts, a total of $10 million over the next three years to support racial and social justice and to continue to support greater access to education through groups such as NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., Equal Justice Initiative and The Young Women’s Leadership Schools (TWYLS). ELC said it will also donate $5 million in the coming weeks and an additional $5 million over the following two years. This pledge includes and builds upon the company’s $1 million pledge to support racial and social justice organizations previously communicated to its employees.
Other stakeholders in beauty have also taken steps that have been thoughtful and thought-provoking and great resources for implementing change, such as Naeemah LaFond, global artistic director at Amika. LaFond created “How Brands and Industry Decision Makers Can Support Black Hair Stylists.” Her guide was originally posted on Instagram
“There’s a global conversation about racism and inequality that is taking place and I’m cautiously optimistic to see that my colleagues in the hair care industry have an open ear and are ready to join in on the conversation. I think that outside of what is being done in your personal lives to advocate for change and injustice towards black people, that there also needs to be an internal look at your professional spaces and the changes that need to be made there,” LaFond said. “I believe that the first step lies in recognizing the disproportionate lack of access that black people have to opportunities in this industry which lead to systematic and economic inequalities. I want to be proactive, so I’ve made a list of ways that decision makers and leaders can help in making a real change in our industry that goes beyond a social media post. We are at a historical moment and I along with many of my peers are open to having this conversation with you (as awkward as it may get) so that we can advance as an industry in a way that is in true representation of all of its artists. Let’s put it all on the table. Our industry as a collective needs to do better. Our artistry is owed that. Let’s do the work.”
As this issue went to press, several leading beauty companies announced their intent to recognize Juneteenth with donations and pledges to the black community and by declaring the day a company holiday. Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day that US Army troops arrived in Galveston, TX and informed the last slaves in the state that they were granted freedom (two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation). Shiseido America and Estée Lauder Cos Inc. were two large beauty brands to announce that June 19 would become company holiday for its US employees.
Dr. Bronner’s announced a series of increasing efforts to, in its own words, do “our part to dismantle white supremacy and end systemic racial injustice and anti-Black racism.” The soap maker on June 19 said it will donate an additional $100,000 to the Movement for Black Lives this year and pledge to donate a total of $1 million over the next 10 years. That announcement followed the company’s $25,000 pledge made earlier in the month for racial justice.
In addition to asking others to join the mobilization on Juneteenth weekend (June 19-21, 2020) Bronner’s called on fellow B Corps and other companies to join it in donating to the Movement for Black Lives, with a call to action in the brothers’ June 19 blog post: “To all our peers in the natural products industry and our allies across many movements and sectors: please make a concrete financial commitment to the Movement for Black Lives in solidarity with today’s sixnineteen mobilization.”
The murder of George Floyd created calls for the end of racism and inequality, but so much more needs to be done. The Black Lives Matter movement began in 2013 with the acquittal of George Zimmerman of murder in the death of Trayvon Martin. Seven years later, racial injustice remains. The steps taken by the beauty business are part of the process—but must continue for real, permanent change.