P&G calls on white people to ‘step up’ and tackle racism

The world’s largest advertiser is calling on white people to use their “power” and stand up against racism in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Procter and Gamble is calling on white people to “use their power” and stand up against racism in an ad running in the US in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

The ad, created by Grey and Cartwright, shows close ups of both black and white skin, and asks how black Americans are to respond “when we are shown over and over and over that our lives do not matter?”. It then points out that “being white in America is not needing to state your life matters. And when your life matters, you have power.”

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It then ends with a call to arms noting that now is the “time to take action”. It urges white people to “read, listen, donate, plan, march, vote, speak out step in, step up” and ends with a web address for a resource guide on race.

P&G’s chief communications officer, Damon Jones, notes that the ad is both an invitation and a challenge to white people to do more when it comes to anti-racism.

He explains: “In my lifetime, never have we needed individuals and companies to step up more than in this moment – not with thoughts and prayers but with deliberate, sustained action. We hope to inspire the silent majority to not only serve as allies but as advocates and activists in the fight for equality. And we’re committed to helping them along that journey.”

This is not the first time company has spoken about race. In 2017, it released ‘The Talk’, a video that showed Black parents explaining the harsh realities of what it is like to live in the US as a black American. This includes a moving scene where a mother explains what to do “when you get pulled over” by the police.

It also released a film call ‘The Look’, about bias in the US. Both are being re-aired more broadly in the hope they inspire important conversations. P&G has also promised to donate an initial $5m to equality causes.

Brands have been coming out in support of BLM as the movement has found a new voice following the death of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of the police.

Brands from Yorkshire Tea to Louis Vitton have shown their support, while L’Oreal has apologised to and rehired former brand ambassador Munroe Bergdorf, who it fired in 2017 for speaking out about white supremacy.

However, many are calling on brands to do more than show their support and instead focus on real change by addressing unequal representation in their own staff and systemic racism. Adidas, for example, has now promised that 30% of new position will be filled by black or Latinx people and is donating $20m to organisations that support black communities.

“We have had to look inward to ourselves as individuals and our organisation and reflect on systems that disadvantage and silence black individuals and communities,” says CEO Kasper Rorsted. “While we have talked about the importance of inclusion, we must do more to create an environment in which all of our employees feel safe, heard and have equal opportunity to advance their careers.”

Nike has similarly promised to donate $40m and work to attract a more diverse workforce.

“We must educate ourselves more deeply on the issues faced by Black communities and understand the enormous suffering and senseless tragedy racial bigotry creates,” says CEO John Donahoe.

“The Nike family can always do more but will never stop striving to role model how a diverse company acts. We will continue our focus on being more representative of our consumers while doing our part in the communities we serve.”

In the UK, meanwhile, Channel 4 has published an anti-racism commitment in which it aims to reach the target of 20% of Channel 4 staff and 20% of the top 100 paid staff will be BAME by 2023. Currently those figures are at 17% and 14%.

Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon says: “As is clear from the testimonies of our black and minority ethnic colleagues in the industry we are not doing enough and there is not enough progress. Therefore, I want to clearly set out today that Channel 4 is an organisation committed to anti-racism and we want to go further in driving positive change within our own organisation and in the creative industries.”