Positive Luxury’s mission has always been about more than just a limited definition of ‘the environment’. We consider nature and society when we examine a business’s impact.
In June we explored the theme of ‘Climate Justice Is Social Justice’, using our report and a webinar with Jendaya’s Ayotunde Rufai, jeweller Lama Hourani, and D&I strategist Vessy Tasheva to unpack the issues luxury businesses are facing and the positive actions they can take today.
For those of you that were unable to attend last week’s webinar (you can watch it in full below) we have broken it down into the three key ideas that you need to be thinking about today:
The events of Black Lives Matter last year bought the plight of communities of colour to the fore in the business world, explained Jendaya’s Ayotunde Rufai. Drawing on his own experience as a black entrepreneur, he pointed to pledges like the 15% pledge by Aurora James that is calling for America’s biggest retailers and department stores to dedicate 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses. This is forcing businesses to empower black voices and black brands in a meaningful way – by helping them build businesses and build generational wealth.
The force that is driving this change is the incredibly vocal Generation Z. They are using social media to hold brands to account and push them to fulfil the promises that they made at the height of the black lives matter protests last year. Businesses that are yet to confront these pressing social issues are already behind the curve and need to think about how they interact with marginalised communities or they will be rejected by their customers and their own employees.
D&I strategist Vessy Tasheva put it like this: ‘The question for businesses is do you want to play catch up or do you want to be a leader?’ Most businesses are already behind where they should be – that much is obvious – but the more they postpone, the higher expectations become. This means that when businesses are inevitably forced to become more inclusive, the harder it is going to be for them to shift their culture into something that employees and customers think is acceptable.
In some businesses this can lead to a disconnect between leaders and the team – the leaders think that no matter what they do to improve D&I ‘it is never enough’, forgetting that the truth is that most businesses have postponed making these changes for so long that they are playing catch up.
However, this work has huge benefits beyond simply being the right thing to do. A clear policy on social issues and D&I will help with employee engagement and retention, help with attracting talent, improve collaboration and innovation, and – importantly – will improve your product because your team will contain people that understand the nuances of the people that you are serving. Whether you are entering a new market or trying to talk to a new customer segment, having done this work can be the difference between failure and success.
The changing attitudes towards social issues and their increased importance to both customers and employees means that leaders need to think about more than just their businesses values – they need to think about their own values. Company values will automatically change with the leadership regardless of what is written down in a charter because the way a CEO and leaders behave sets the example for the business – what they do will inform what is allowed, what isn’t allowed, what is encouraged, what is punished, and what is rewarded. This means that if a business leader wants to create a more socially conscious business, they will need to be a more socially conscious leader.
Vessy Tasheva recommended that CEO’s and leadership teams start by asking the question ‘what are my personal & professional values?’ and examining where and how those align with the pre-existing company values. This is a very personal exploration and will be unique to each leader but the challenge is to discover where in your life you employ empathy, respect, and authenticity and bring those into your professional space. These values will lead directly to creating an inclusive culture and will filter down from leaders into the main workforce.
Lama Hourani is a clear example of this in action. ‘Values are everything’, she said, ‘one of the core things that I’m focused on is creating role models within society. Girls need women of colour, women who speak their language, they need underrepresented segments to be centre stage.’ This is something that she created within her business by using her jewellery brand to uplift women, drawing on the traditional skills of women working in her homeland of Jordan and creating a product that – like a piece of art rather than just a product – reflects an underrepresented cultural experience.
Watch the webinar in full below, or read our Climate Justice is Social Justice report< Back
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