Let’s Do Better

By Esi Eggleston Bracey
Chief Operating Officer, EVP Beauty & Personal Care for Unilever North America
Board of Directors Member, Personal Care Products Council

Over the past year, we’ve seen a societal outcry for racial justice like we have never seen in our lifetimes. And as we reflect on the importance of Black History Month, it’s a reminder that we all have a role to play in creating a more equitable society and helping to end systemic racism. Actions speak louder than words and people are demanding that brands take action. People are taking notice and voting with their dollars. Consumers are looking to buy brands that take a stand and act on issues that are important to them.

Often, I receive questions from brand leads like, “When is the right time to act?” or “Do I have my house in order?” If we waited for everyone to get their houses in order before taking action, we would be waiting a very long time. My perspective is no, brands do not need to wait to have their houses in order before taking action. You can multitask – commit to taking meaningful action and work on your internal changes at the same time.

At Unilever, we know that our portrayals of beauty, the ecosystem of developing products, creating content and sharing stories can change lives – negatively and positively. We want to make a positive impact in the world. We want to be the beauty company that makes the most impact on people, communities and planet, and we know we have a critical role to play in creating an equitable society which is intolerant of intolerance. We know that beauty and race have a long, intertwined history, which gives us the extraordinary opportunity to evolve how we reach, impact, serve and represent beauty in our brands. It has always been something at the core of what we believe in at Unilever. That’s why our work on Dove and its co-founding of the CROWN Coalition in support of the CROWN Act, Vaseline’s work to improve skin equity, and Shea Moisture’s commitment to invest in the Black community and Black female entrepreneurs is more important than ever before. 

The first step is acknowledging where your brand sits on this journey. It’s important to own your current state – wherever you are on your journey. This requires being brave and risking being vulnerable. Truly commit to doing better and use it as an opportunity to commit to what the future looks like and build a specific and transparent plan to get there.

When it comes to products, think about what you are creating or putting out into the world. It is one thing to make something that is intended to show your stance, which can be perceived as performative. It’s another thing to develop products that are intended to actually serve the Black community.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed so many areas of inequity. Brands should ask themselves how they can help and where they have the right to play. Get specific about where racism is showing up. There are so many areas that the pandemic has illuminated: images and stereotypes, health inequities, economic inequity and disparity. Break down the problems that need to be solved and assess where your brand can make a meaningful difference. Not all brands can have the same impact in all areas.

As we look to the future, we need to evaluate how we can make the biggest impact and more fully address the needs of the Black community, which has been marginalized. Also, let’s actually move a step beyond being allies for the Black community and actually become active advocates for equity and systemic change through meaningful commitments and deliberate action. Making this change will require each of us to grow and evolve together. We are stronger together. I truly believe that together we can change the world. Let’s do it.