B Lab Takes a Stand: A Commitment to Justice and Anti-Racism
As an organization, we stand against anti-Black racism and all forms of oppression including transphobia, classism, sexism, and xenophobia. We commit to a focused and sustained action to dismantle racist systems, policies, practices, and ideologies within ourselves and our networks. As we continue to learn about injustice, we embrace radical reorientation of our consciousness and will listen to the voices of Black, Brown, Indigenous and marginalized peoples to catalyze equitable outcomes for all.
Earlier in June, as B Lab’s Director of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, I submitted a proposal for B Lab to take a stance as an anti-racist organization. Last quarter, B Lab U.S. & Canada announced its plans to take staff members on a journey to become educated in anti-racism. But racism is not just a “United States or Canadian problem.” It is useful to see a variety of other examples of how race has been constructed among other countries and governance models, as well as understand U.S. history in the context of these broader trends. Anti-racism work encompasses work streams within different countries where B Lab operates, but our unified anti-racist approach will encompass the pillars of justice that hold true at a global, systemic level.
B Lab has always been a proponent of change — that change has been directed toward capitalism. Capitalism and racism can be seen as "conjoined twins," and that “… the origins of racism cannot be separated from the origins of capitalism … the life of capitalism cannot be separated from the life of racism” (Kendi, 2019). No longer can B Lab act as a bystander in the dismantling of racism—silence in the wake of racial injustices is seen as violence against BIPOC community members. Complacent is not how B Lab should be showing up as a leader.
Our movement calls for boldness and inclusivity with the purpose of a betterment for all, and it’s imperative that we continue to seek ways to “practice what we preach” at B Lab. Being a leader is hard, goals are a moving target; it’s never going to be “good enough” and we have to do the work. We have to train for the marathon if we want to build the stamina to sustain the trauma of the race. If it were easy, everybody would be doing it. But we aren’t everybody, and the world expects more — it deserves more. We must model Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (JEDI) commitments for the entire B Corp community. We take that job very seriously.
There is an existing intersection between racism, white supremacy culture, and capitalism as we know it. Injustice does not recognize city, state or country borders. Systems of oppression exist around the globe and have existed as such for hundreds of years. Anti-Black violence and police brutality, disproportionate effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic, and racism are prevalent from Africa to Asia to the United Kingdom. Colorism, xenophobia and intolerance are problems prevalent in all societies. Benefits that are structured to advantage majority groups at the expense of others are rooted in white supremacy, and create power inequalities, unequal access to opportunities, and differing policy outcomes by race and other demographics.
There is a misconception that racism is solely about race, when technically it is prejudice or discrimination directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is minoritized. And “ethnic” represents the act of belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural tradition. Racism is about culture.
"Anti-racism is an active and conscious effort to work against multidimensional aspects of racism," says Robert J. Patterson, professor of African American Studies at Georgetown University. We are all affected: Racism against Black people isn't perpetuated among white people alone, and Black Americans are not the only racial group to suffer from racism. That is to say, racism and anti-racism exist in multitudes. But it was white European colonialists who were at the helm of slavery 400 years ago, laying the foundation for today's structural racism that everyone — yes, you too — is born into. New research from the University of Nottingham reveals that even today, in almost half of the world’s countries, there is no criminal law penalizing any aspects of slavery. In 94 countries, you cannot be prosecuted and punished in a criminal court for enslaving another human being (Schwarz & Allain, 2020). Forced labour is a global problem, affecting almost all countries of the world. According to the Workers' Alliance against Forced Labour and Tracking, in Sub-Saharan Africa at least 660,000 persons are in forced labour, from traditional forms to modern slavery. Four out of five forced labourers are economically exploited and remnants of traditional slavery still exist in some countries in West Africa, rooted in extreme poverty and long-standing patterns of discrimination. In 2018, the Global Slavery Index reported that Africa recorded the highest rate of modern-day enslavement in the world. The genocide of Indigenous women is still occurring in Canada.
Racism & oppression are not hard to see, if you choose to look.
We all have an opportunity to gain insight from both inspiring and devastating events in history around the world, as well as to apply new understanding to our own life experiences. At B Lab, we will actively and publicly do the work to educate internal leaders and staff on anti-racist rhetoric, theories and behaviors, to dismantle the aspects of racism embedded in our systems and policies, to de-center whiteness and Americanization in our work and analysis, and center justice in our goals, outcomes and standards.
B Lab is trying to strike the balance between understanding that we need to do more and trying to find the right speed at which to go. How fast should radical change happen? We recognize this thin line, and although we are unsure whether each step we take will result in trial or triumph, we forge ahead in our JEDI journey anyway, primed and ready to enter our anti-racism phase as accountable business leaders and stand against injustice and oppression.
Therefore, B Lab’s internal JEDI approach is multipronged to create far-reaching impact across the organization and our network and set all B Lab teams up for greater success in the future. Simply put, we will “get our house in order” by taking the following actions:
This summer, begin working with B Lab’s internal JEDI team, B Corp Global Partners, and the B Corp minoritized communities, to complete a JEDI review of the B Impact Assessment to determine what aspects of our Standards need to be revised, removed or added, and subsequently doing so.
In Q4, begin working with equity-focused Board consultants to create an equity-focused Board expansion process.
In September 2020, begin a JEDI-focused Board cohort learning intensive.
Create active JEDI learning modules at quarterly Board meetings.
Lead the organization’s staff through curated trainings, which focus on Global cultural competency, white supremacy and anti-racism. Focusing on Executive Leadership and B Lab’s People & Operations Team, but giving access to these resources to Board members and Global Partners.
Partner with B Lab’s People & Culture Team to adjoin JEDI accountabilities to our manager and staff review processes.
Work with global consultants who specialize in anti-racism systems change and partner with B Lab’s People & Culture Team to critically review our organization’s policies and practices for JEDI and anti-racism considerations.
Create a Global Advisory Group with Global Partners to create regular touchpoints for information exchange, regular JEDI updates, and educational opportunities within and across our Global network.
Will we get this all done? That’s the goal! Will we get it all right? Probably not. But we are committed to doing our due diligence as a learning organization to build upon our foundations of knowledge to live into our entrepreneurial beliefs and develop strategies that benefit everyone inclusively and equitably. We will admit when we don’t know and we will ask for help when we need it. But we won’t quit. We won’t stop having the hard conversations. We won’t stop admitting the hard truths. And we won’t stop telling histories as they happened, no matter how ugly the past may be, because only when we can own and acknowledge the injustices our countries have inflicted on its People of Color can we see how much further we really have to go and get to work.
Racism is global and hyper-local. B Lab Global Partners around the world are responding:
Sistema B’s Anti-Racist Campaign: A space for public commitment by people and companies that understand that Black lives matter. And more than not being racist, it is necessary to be anti-racist and have anti-racist practices on a daily basis, in the fight against structural and institutional racism.
B Lab UK: B Lab UK embarks on its own journey to tackle racism and shares reflections from an Open Community Conversation.
How to host an 'Open Community Conversation about Anti-racism': Watch the video recording and review the slide deck from this difficult discussion on race and antiracism, held by B Lab UK.
B Lab U.S. & Canada open letter to the B Corp Community and Anti-Racism Resource Center: A collection of professional resources on guiding teams, providing individual support, and centering equity and justice in company practices.
We invite the B Corp community across the globe to join us in the fight against injustice. Learn about racism, marginalization and oppression in your regions, and share what you learn on the B Hive. Engage with your local B Lab or Sistema B organization and peer B Corps in their anti-racism initiatives. But don’t talk about it if you’re not going to be about it, because we are done with that—that is no longer acceptable. It is unimpressive and insulting to speak up without action.
Let’s call racism and privilege by its name, stop making oppression only about race, and dismantle white supremacist ideologies that govern our existence. Listen to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) voices. Let Black womxn lead. Give up some power, because having to fight for it all the time is really exhausting.
To learn more about the earlier stages of B Lab’s JEDI journey and get started on your own, we encourage you to visit the following articles:
You can also visit B Lab U.S. & Canada's Anti-racism resource center for more information and resources during your anti-racism journey.
This article was updated on March 29, 2021.