The Case for the Call for Black Certification™:
The overall case for Black Certification is broken down into 3 dispositions that encompass our stance and reasoning behind our call to action. We layout the supporting details of the 3 areas we are advocating for and describe how one is achieved through Black Certification. Each area is represented in one or more questions within the BCA review and scoring guidelines. They are outlined below:
- The Case for the call for Economic Development Opportunities.
- The Case for the call for Authentic Consumer Engagement.
- The Case for the call for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
The foundational case for Black Certification is a call for true accountability and oversight. Investopedia.com describes corporate accountability as “a company’s performance in non-financial areas such as social responsibility and sustainability. Corporate accountability espouses that financial performance should not be a company’s only important goal and that shareholders are not the only people to whom a company must be responsible; stakeholders such as employees and community members also require accountability.”
It is our prevailing belief that true accountability cannot ever be achieved if it is not assessed from the individual and independent perspective of those whom it intends to account for it. During last summer, the beginning of a reinvigorated national and arguably global reckoning with racial inequality occurred. Two-thirds of the S&P 500 companies made supportive statements after the death of George Floyd which sparked this reinvigorated spirit; following suit 36% of those companies made financial contributions to racial justice organizations and 14% actually stated Black Lives Matter, according to As You Sow, as California based group that promotes environmental and social corporate responsibility. What this shows us is that major corporations and companies understand and believe to some extent that they have a responsibility to address social issues. They weighed the options and determined, with a clear understanding of the current social climate coupled with the power and disposition of Black or African American people, that those position statements, initiatives, and contributions were in their best professional business interests. We are proposing that, to solidify those corporate business interests, companies must go farther than simple statements & financial contributions.
For all intents and purposes, these actions are insincere & become entirely performative measures. A one-time payout or payoff to one organization is not a major step towards addressing 400 years of systemic racism for some 40 million Black & African Americans. Moreover, it does nothing to prove change if these corporations refuse some form of transparency, accountability, and reoccurring proofs of progress within the firm’s initiatives and contributions.
Our case for Black Certification starts with our beliefs surrounding accountability.
~ The Case for Economic Development Opportunities:
Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, said on Tuesday, May 19th, 2020 in a memo that “we use this crisis as a catalyst to rebuild an economy that creates and sustains opportunity for dramatically more people, especially those who have been left behind for too long,” Dimon said. “The last few months have laid bare the reality that, even before the pandemic hit, far too many people were living on the edge.” Without Mr. Dimon explicitly referencing Black and African Americans we can still conclude whom he was speaking about by saying “especially those who have been left behind for too long”. Black and African Americans are by far the most disadvantaged group in the United States; all while consisting of 13.4% or approximately 46 million Americans who live near or below the poverty line. If they are above the poverty line they have little to no savings or valuable assets which becomes apparent with the following statistics of Black American households. According to brookings.edu; In 2019 the median white household held $188,200 in wealth—7.8 times that of the typical Black household of $24,100. White households reported an average wealth of $983,400, which is 6.9 times that of Black households $142,500.
According to the Annual Business Survey, Black or African Americans owned 124,004 employer businesses (firms with at least one paid employee) in 2017. This accounts for 2.2% percent of the 5.7 million total employer businesses in the United States. This fact means, almost near an absolute majority of Black or African Americans work for a firm that is owned by a member of another nationality (or are unemployed which is another issue worth addressing separately directly concerning the social responsibility of corporate America). This creates a disconnect both in terms of socioeconomic status, power, and economic opportunities.
According to a CNBC report, Black and African Americans boast a 1.4 trillion-dollar spending power, and for the purpose of context, that is higher than the gross domestic product or GDP of Spain, Mexico, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, and Nigeria according to Investopedia.com. With these presented facts and statistics we aim to illustrate the socio-economical position of Black and African Americans. We do not employ our community which means we do not own many factors of production (land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurship), yet our economic power is on par with entire nations across the globe who do own large factors of production. The 36% of companies who quickly made financial contributions to racial justice and the 14% who said Black Lives Matter weighed the options and determined, with a clear understanding of the current social climate coupled with power and disposition of Black or African American people, that those position statements, initiatives, and contributions were in their best professional interests.
Our call for corporate economic opportunities is placed in the need to develop the economy of the Black and African American community. America’s top banker, Jamie Dimon, concluded after assessing the economic effects of COVID-19 from the top of America’s largest bank that America cannot have a strong economy if 13.4% of its citizens are systematically prohibited & disadvantaged from economic opportunities, ability, and mobility. Within BCAs established review guidelines, we assess specifically whether a firm utilizes diverse suppliers within its supply chain processes, or subcontracts external work to diverse firms and agencies as internally necessary, or works with minority-led services-based businesses. Additionally, we assess and track all the financial contributions, donations, and investments a firm gives to minority-led ventures, startups, nonprofits, initiatives, and any other programs. The goal is to bolster and subsidize the economic development of Black and African American communities and enterprises. Black Certification clients have exclusive access to our minority supplier, subcontractors, and service-based businesses network list. Our solution for companies is a list, completely vetted by BCA, of businesses that have the ability and know-how to handle global supply chains and large-scale projects.
~ The Case for Authentic Engagement:
Describing authentic consumer engagement can be done best by describing what inauthentic consumer engagement looks like. Inauthentic engagement looks like Black or African American marketed products, campaigns, and statements with undertones of racism and/or stereotypical bias that were not seen before release or publication. From a consumer viewpoint, it becomes clear that a member of that community was not present during the creative development of these products, marketing campaigns, or statement releases; and if they were, their voices were not heard, ignored, or excluded. The goal of authentic consumer engagement is to #amplifyblackvoices, #amplifymelanatedvoices, and #amplifyblackcreatives in corporate offices, production crews, and creative development projects. With this, corporations can be confident in everything they produce to connect with Black and African Americans because it is produced with the oversight and insight of creative Black and African Americans.
This combats “culture vulture” public perceptions because companies utilize Black creators and consultants during the developmental process of campaigns and products that are intended to engage Black & African American consumers. Moreover, authentic engagement is aimed at drawing companies away from the high potentials of the also damaging “cancel culture” phenomenon before having a detrimental effect on your business. Black Certification is social credibility.
Jenelle Coy from the Forbes Agency Council wrote in her article If you want Black audiences, give them a seat at the table, that “When it comes to marketing to black millennials, it’s not what you know, it’s whom you know. No one knows black audiences like black marketers and advertisers. Black-owned agencies are uniquely positioned as both industry experts and members of a lucrative, yet underserved market demographic. This allows them intrinsic authenticity and the ability to leverage that authenticity into winning campaigns for their clients.” This means Black-owned agencies like the Black Certification Agency Inc. boast the most valuable insight into the actual perspective and psychology of the average Black or African American consumer. We believe that companies will never be able to produce authentically engaging campaigns focused on their Black and African American consumers without the direct assistance of that same demographic.
“Having black-owned and black-operated agencies create content, head campaigns and design visuals made for black audiences will show genuine support. Brands are seen as champions and responsible producers rather than culture vultures trying to take advantage. In order to succeed, you have to be perceived as marketing for – not just marketing to – African-Americans. Black voices as a part of the process achieve that. ” (If you want Black audiences give them a seat at the table by Jenelle Coy, forbes.com 2020). Putting this simply, a campaign that is built by Black people for Black people will better engage and impact consumer engagement in the onset and solidify brand relationships with the consumer overall.
Additionally, what we noticed was that consumers, particularly Black millennials, Gen Z, and Gen Xers are now more socially conscious and aware than ever before. “70% of black millennials say they are more likely to buy from a brand that takes a stance on race-related issues”, and; “African Americans are now 58% more likely to expect the brands they buy to take a stance on these issues and are 37% more likely to buy a brand when they do” according to Nielsen’s African American Diverse Intelligence Series 2020. This means the largest businesses, brands, and corporations can no longer be supported by Black capital if they do not explicitly support Black communities, lives, and culture. Africans & Black Americas expect the brands they buy to be vocal about the issues that affect their lives; especially if those same brands in part cause some of those adverse effects on Black Americans.
According to a Forbes article entitled, Understanding the research on millennial shopping behaviors, “60% of millennials tend to gravitate toward purchases that are an expression of their personality — the brand must speak to them at this level and make them feel good.” This means in essence a progressive millennial will be less likely to purchase and highly unlikely to continue purchasing a brand if that brand promotes strong conservative values. This can be seen as some consumers who do not hold any religious affiliations did not feel comfortable shopping with certain brands that openly push Christian values through their products. If a brand is vocal about certain values it holds then naturally the consumer will want their values to match.
C+R research reported that “Because Blacks are younger on average, they’re trendsetters and tastemakers for young consumers of all races, according to the Selig Center. They influence mainstream culture and wield immense influence over how Americans choose to spend their money. Any marketing campaign targeting Millennials “must include messages to reach African-American youth,” notes Nielsen.” in their article entitled, Marketing insights from Black History Month: A look at Black influence on pop culture. Collegegroup.com reported in their article entitled, African American consumers: Cultural Influencers, that “Marketers would be remiss to gloss over a segment with such a powerful sway over the broader consumer base. In this way, the investment case becomes two-fold. Reaching African-Americans generates ROI not only within the segment, but also carries a halo effect for crossover initiatives to the Total Market.”
In closing, it is estimated that by 2024 the African & Black American communities’ annual spending power will have reached 1.8 trillion. As a community, these Americans have built industries solely through their spending. This fact becomes even more apparent in the form of 2.4 Billion being spent annually to market directly to African American communities by: Procter & Gamble, Berkshire Hathaway, Amazon, Pfizer, At&t, Abbvie, Pepsi Co, Progressive Group, Yum! Brands, and Walt Disney respectively. (Source: Nielsen African American Diverse Intelligence Series 2020).
This is why we advocate for authentic engagement with Black and African American consumers. We understand the power and potential of genuinely collaborating with Black creative voices for the purpose of legitimate relationships with Black and African American consumers. We also understand how Black and African Americans influence the broad mainstream marketplace in terms of “what’s trending”. Our executive team members work directly with our Black Certified clients to leverage our public communications and marketing abilities first and then employ BCAs exclusive list of partnered Black-led creative agencies and consulting firms to maintain and assist in the development of various projects.
~ The Case for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I):
The University of Michigan defined Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as the following:
General diversity broadly covers race and ethnicity, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, language, culture, national origin, religious commitments, age, (dis)ability status, and political perspective. We understand this as ensuring that all people are being properly represented within an organization and the organization is committed to a diverse environment that reflects our diverse nation.
General equity broadly covers race, color, national origin, age, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, religion, height, weight, or veteran status. We understand equity, as it depends on every person being represented, is being treated fairly and having access and availability to all the same opportunities across organizations.
General inclusion is broadly defined as differences being welcomed, different perspectives are respectfully heard and every individual feels a sense of belonging and inclusion. We understand inclusion as creating workplace environments that are built on healthy relationships among all the members of the organization no matter what their differences may be.
Our advocacy in the diversity, equity, and inclusion area comes from the realization that we must intentionally focus firms on pushing for corporations to achieve DE&I numbers and policies as it relates to their Black and African American employees specifically. With such broad job descriptions to handle, it subsequently requires robust and exceptionally diverse DE&I departments within major corporations to properly tackle all these issues. The notion of hiring one DE&I executive, or Chief Diversity Officer and tasking them with tackling national diversity numbers across 18 different basic factors points to a lack of serious commitment in achieving true diversity, equity, and inclusion.
We offer and advocate for a specific and intentional focus within a company’s current and future DE&I policies and initiatives on Black and African American employee interests. We believe this is necessary to have successful, effective, and efficient diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environments.