2020 has undoubtedly been an impactful year in terms of large-scale national and global events, but the Black Lives Matter movement and protests across the U.S. have captivated young audiences in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and other police brutality victims—and retailers and brands must take notice and respond authentically.
Gen Z now sees the Black Lives Matter movement as the second-most impactful event of their lifetimes, with 68 percent in the U.S. saying it has had a major effect on their worldview, according to a study from Morning Consult. How impactful exactly? The 68 percent represents their sentiment on the movement in June alone—a massive jump over the 47 percent that said cited its impact only two months ago in April. Predictably, the COVID-19 pandemic takes the cake as the phenomenon wielding the greatest impact on Gen Zers at 75 percent.
This audience very much believes business play a big part in shaping how the country responds to racist activity and systemic racism. As many as 76 percent of Gen Z shoppers agree that companies and their leaders should leverage their influence to demand action from government entities that have the power to enact systemic change. Another 76 percent believe corporations play an important role in this country, and as such should assert their influence to impact political and cultural issues.
Gen Z’s high expectations for brands come as a stark contrast to the generation’s deteriorating trust in the country’s institutions. Trust in the police (13 percent) and the federal government (10 percent) have sunken substantially since April, when the already-low totals were 27 percent and 17 percent, respectively. With low trust comes low optimism, as only 13 percent of Gen Z shoppers feel very optimistic about the future of the U.S.
However, brands are going to have do more than simply condemn racism in an email or an Instagram post to express that they genuinely care about solving the country’s pervasive social justice issues. Eighty-two percent of Gen Z audiences say while they appreciate companies and business leaders making a public statement or posting about movements such as Black Lives Matter, their actions should speak much louder than their words.
This is imperative for businesses going ahead, as 66 of Gen Z shoppers say a company’s reaction and expression on topics such as Black Lives Matter will permanently affect their decision on whether or not to buy from them in the future.
Brands should also take note that the younger the shopper is, the more likely they are to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Eighty-one percent of Gen Z audiences and 70 percent of millennials support BLM, while 62 percent of Gen X and 56 percent of baby boomers support the movement.
With that said, it appears more brands have their ears to the ground and are making moves to act accordingly, whether by being more introspective about their own hiring and diversity initiatives or by donating significant sums of money supporting groups dedicated to promoting racial equality.
In a recent blog post, Levi Strauss & Co. acknowledged it is not hiring enough black employees and has too few black people in positions to make hiring decisions. The company released demographic representation data last week in a diversity and inclusion report to be transparent about the progress pf the company going forward.
“The reality is we need to do more,” the company cited in an email. “We pride ourselves on being a progressive company that takes bold stances to promote equity, justice and inclusivity all around the world, but we must ensure that we live these same principles within our organization to be our very best.”
The data revealed that LS&Co.’s leadership team is 73 percent white, 16 percent Asian and 6 percent Latinx. Black/African-American employees represent just 2 percent of the leadership workforce. CEO and president Chip Bergh said the company will publish annual updates on employee demographics and diversity statistics, publish wage equity audits every other year and search for a black leader to join LS&Co.’s board of directors.
Bergh’s statement is pivotal in attaching a human face to the changes. The Morning Consult report indicated that 65 percent of shoppers agree that the way CEOs react and express themselves on topics such as Black Lives Matter will permanently affect their decision to buy from the company in the future.
Walmart is donating $100 million over the course of five years into the creation of a new center promoting racial equality. The company will recruit African Americans in higher numbers, and will work to develop and support black team members inside the company, CEO Doug McMillon said in an email obtained by The Hill. Amazon and Target are donating $10 million each to groups focused on combating systemic racism and rebuilding local communities.
Deckers Brands, which owns Ugg, Teva, Sanuk and Hoka One One, among others, is donating a total of $500,000 to groups promoting racial equality, including the NAACP, the ACLU and Black Lives Matter. H&M Group also said it would donate $500,000 to the NAACP, Color of Change and ACLU.
Additionally, Gap Inc. will donate $250,000 to the NAACP and Embrace Race, while Lululemon will donate $100,000 to the Minnesota Freedom Fund.
Across all shopper demographics, Gen Z is more likely to support black- and minority-owned businesses than their peers in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests. While only 33 percent of all adults say they are more likely to shop at a black-owned business, that number jumps to 47 percent of Gen Z respondents. Similarly, 47 percent are more likely to shop at other minority-owned businesses, compared to 37 percent of all adults.
Gen Z’s decisions to further social justice causes extend beyond shopping habits into everyday life. For example, 46 percent say they made an effort to learn more about actions they can take to support racial justice in the wake of George Floyd’s death, well above the 27 percent of all consumer demographics that did. And 39 percent tried to encourage others to support the Black Lives Matter movement, far ahead of the 19 percent overall.