In 2020, America went through a real crisis, as it began to navigate an elongated inner and external battle with COVID-19. We also came head-to-head with the act of and role in racism as we watched yet another Black man, George Floyd, join the long list of unarmed Black men killed by white men. Companies across all industries released statements of how they stand with the Black community.
Which was confusing, because based on history, and my lived experience as a Black woman, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Black employees in corporate America are constantly overlooked for white counterparts. Black women and men are time and time again falsely judged based on our appearances and not fitting into cookie-cutter molds that the American landscape are accustomed to. Fashion companies are constantly under fire for selling items that mock our culture or promote stereotypes.
For these reasons, and a plethora more, myself and a large percentage of the Black community rolled our eyes when we received emails or scrolled through social media and saw brands with messages reading: “We stand with the Black community,” “A message from our CEO,” “Our stance on diversity and inclusion.” Several of us called bullshit and saw this as a sink-or-swim tactic — a classic greenwashing tactic where brands thought we would be fooled into believing, fully knowing their track records.
A handful of brands called out by angry consumers decided to put the work in. And apparently, for 2 years now, they have been working to up their diversity and inclusion programs, doing better to hear out the stories of BIPOC employees and actually creating action to better their lives at said companies. But who has actually been following through with their words? Who is transparent in their actions?
I can tell you one thing, Millennials (my generation, age 26-41) and Gen Z (age 10-25), seem to be very firm in where they want to shop, and what values they are looking for in a company. Buying power is in our hands, and it’s about time companies actually listen. According to recent studies, we care most about the following 3 categories the most.
No surprise here, but all of us younger than 40 years old care a lot about clean grooming. Unfortunately, the meaning of that varies depending on who you talk to. But for me, that means products that think about the environment, body makeup, and sustainability first. It means brands don’t use harmful chemicals (alcohols, sulfates, parabens, fossil fuel, etc.). We want to support brands that vibe with our values and make us feel good.
Back to what we were saying earlier, we young ones believe that diversity should be embedded in the brand’s DNA. It shouldn’t be thought of later, but instead, seamlessly goes with what the brand is educating on or selling. We are done asking for brands to include more color ranges, genders, skin conditions, hair types, or sizing. And to be honest, we really aren’t shopping brands without this already. Not everyone looks the same, so why on Earth would we spend time on brands who are not thinking this way?
Again, no surprise but our generations care about newness. Blame it on social media, but we are addicted to new products we see on our favorite influencers or celebrities accounts. And with the bottomless amount of options, we also care about innovation and the brands that are actually doing something different.
In related news, read about how biotech beauty is the new wave of environmentally-friendly skincare.
Photo via Nuori