Beneficial State Foundation Perspectives

Our thoughts on changing the banking system for good and building the new economy

Structured Against Structural Racism: How to tell when anti-racism is at your organization’s core

A group of diverse employees are gathered around a bright conference room table.

Since the murder of George Floyd, organizations worldwide have made public declarations in support of the Movement for Black Lives and racial justice. In July of 2020, B Lab made the commitment to justice and anti-racism with this pronouncement:

“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.”

As the nonprofit that oversees B Corp Certification, B Lab has always been a vocal advocate for change, and rightly directed that call for change toward capitalism. Dr. Ibram X. Kendi views capitalism and racism as inextricably linked and acknowledges 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.”

Racial and economic justice movements have exposed exploitative and extractive practices within capitalism, practices that make it less likely for Black families to accumulate enough wealth to close the racial wealth gap. However, as Michelle Alexander points out in her book, The New Jim Crow, exposing capitalism for what it is forces it to transform and evolve.

Certified B Corporations envision a transformed model of capitalism where business acts as a force for good. By signing onto the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence, movement leaders affirm that all businesses ought to be conducted as if people matter, not just profit. B Corps understand that through their products, practices, and profits, they should aspire to do no harm and benefit all. If organizations are to execute on this pledge, then B Corps must continue to invest in anti-racist infrastructure and embed anti-racist practices into their business models.

As Dr. Tiffany Jana of B Corp TMI Consulting says, “The B Corp community has an outsized responsibility and opportunity to lead the way in anti-racism, global inclusion, and really setting a new model for how businesses interact with their communities, with society, with the economy, government, the whole nine yards. The B Corp community needs to be intentional and stop using the excuse that we don’t have money or we don’t have time.”


Is Anti-Racism in Your Organization’s DNA?

Purpose establishes your organization’s “why.” It helps your organization identify the problem you’re trying to solve and the impact you want to have. B Corps should have a competitive advantage when it comes to articulating the rationale for their existence and how they intend to solve social issues. Consider how your B Corp centers justice in its work, both external and internal. A commitment to justice means dismantling barriers with creative solutions that center those who are marginalized and excluded.

Is your organization’s commitment to anti-racism visible, and does the organization invest in and assign resources for that commitment in the same way you would any other core business need? Does the organization create forums and venues for uncomfortable conversations on issues of race, racism, anti-racism, white supremacy, and white privilege? If it’s not listed in your budget, it’s not a high enough priority.


Does HR Track Progress?

Human resources practices are a major factor in the work of building an anti-racist organization. Does your organization partner with and recruit from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Minority Serving Institutions, and other institutions with strong track records in serving students of color? Has the organization mitigated against the impact of unconscious bias with blind recruiting? Have you considered who is doing the recruiting? Has the organization contracted for the services of a DEI consulting firm to conduct a review of hiring practices or lead your hiring efforts? Is the interview team as diverse as the communities that you serve? How do you shift power in your hiring processes to consider other perspectives? Has your HR team been trained in writing inclusive job descriptions?


Are You Seeking Growth in the Right Direction?

Is the organization intentional about creating opportunities for Employees of Color to take on new and challenging roles, including assignments with budget responsibilities? Does the organization offer mentorship and sponsorship opportunities for junior and mid-career Employees of Color so they are prepared and able to seize growth opportunities? Does the organization have a clear strategy for retaining and promoting Black talent? Does the organization set diversity goals for each level of the organization, inclusive of the board, and report demographic data on a disaggregated basis annually? Does the organization have a community engagement strategy that connects with Communities of Color and organizations led by People of Color? These historically underrepresented and underserved groups can play an invaluable role in identifying challenges and opportunities for authentic anti-racist work.


Are You Using Your Organization’s Dollars Strategically?

B Corps can address issues of wealth creation and economic justice by making strategic and intentional decisions about where they spend their money. Does your organization have a supplier diversity program that reflects your brand, your racial equity strategy, and the communities you serve? Does your strategy of contracting with businesses owned by People of Color extend to professional services organizations such as accounting, legal, graphic design, marketing, and information technology? Does the organization track expenditures and are there plans in place to grow these expenditures with businesses owned by People of Color year over year?


Is Your Performance Connected to Community Well-Being?

Corporate giving and community investment should be prioritized to support People of Color-led local grassroots organizations with a primary focus to serve Communities of Color. Does the organization have a commitment to a long-term relationship with these community-based nonprofits? Does the organization provide time, talent, financial resources, and expertise, including pro-bono services and board service? Does the organization make investments in the communities most impacted by racial inequity and economic inclusion? The goal is to create sustained, positive cycles of economic development and regeneration, and remove the systems that have fostered inequities and disparities. The Boston Ujima Project is a powerful case study of how sustained community investments can yield better outcomes for housing justice, labor rights, youth empowerment, and environmental justice.


Bringing It Together to Bring Us Together

What does a fully inclusive, anti-racist, and multicultural B Corp look like? These are some elements that will be helpful in any self-assessment and verification process of an organization’s anti-racist vision and organizational values:

  • The B Corp has a future vision of an institution and wider community that have overcome systemic racism and all other forms of oppression.
  • The B Corp is organized to provide full participation and shared power with diverse racial, cultural, and economic groups in determining its mission, structure, constituency, policies, and practices.
  • The B Corp centers employees across identity groups and intentionally works to break down barriers and provide access so that all employees can fully participate in the decisions that shape the institution.
  • The B Corp has a sense of a restored community guided by principles of deep solidarity, shared humanity, and mutual caring.
  • The B Corp actively works in larger communities (regional, national, global) and networks to eliminate all forms of oppression and to create multicultural organizations.

Being an anti-racist organization requires aspiring for a more inclusive society and taking actions toward making it real. B Corps already have a competitive advantage when it comes to combining dreams with deeds — they’re well-positioned to show the business community the widespread benefits of fostering belonging for all.


This article was originally published by Beneficial State Bank in B The Change on Medium. B The Change gathers and shares the voices from within the movement of people using business as a force for good and the community of Certified B Corporations. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the nonprofit B Lab.

Francis Janes leads Beneficial State Foundation’s industry relations strategy and develops partnerships to advance the field of social impact banking. Francis developed a strong understanding of the social and environmental impact of values-based banking while serving in the role of Vice President for Beneficial State Bank in the Seattle marketplace.

Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels.