Hey there, this is Patrick, Nisolo’s CEO sharing our Racial Justice Plan of Action, the mistakes we made and takeaways that led us to create it, and the bumpy journey it has been along the way. Full disclosure, this post ended up being quite longer than I thought it would be. Racial justice is critically important though, so I hope you’ll consider reading it in its entirety. Here’s a quick summary to help keep you oriented as you digest:
- When it comes to racial justice, let’s focus on “being better” not “feeling better.”
- Pursuing important things in life and racial justice must happen simultaneously.
- Balancing the pursuit of racial justice and other important things requires an intentional commitment and plan.
- If we TRULY want progress, we need a better strategic plan that is baked into our lives.
- Nisolo’s Racial Justice Plan of Action.
- After diving in, if our approach to racial justice resonates with you, let’s take action together.
- Racial justice is not the core intent of why we started Nisolo nor is it directly central to the vision we aim to accomplish as a company.
- Realistically, I am just about the furthest you can be from an expert on racial justice, racial equity, or antiracism (here are some acknowledgements of those who have influenced my thoughts though).
So, why am I talking about this topic and sharing Nisolo’s journey publicly?
In order for the events of 2020 to be the turning point we desire and not just another blip in history, it’s critical for racial justice to not only be a top priority for public and private organizations alike but also one that is openly and honestly discussed by them as well. This means that though it will inevitably be clumsy and ugly (like some of you may find this post to be), even white male CEOs need to get involved and speak up too.
Our hope with this post is not just to share our Plan of Action but to offer key takeaways from our mistakes, to offer some arguments that might influence prioritization of racial justice within your own life or organization, and finally, to offer some basic tools that have been helpful to us and may make next steps a bit more tangible and practical for in your life.
With that said, let’s start off with our first big takeaway...
While I’m sure there are some incredible exceptions out there, most of what I’ve seen individuals and organizations post about relating to combating racial injustice does a good job of making us “feel better,” but what’s generally lacking is the substance required to drive organizations and society toward actually “being better.”
Here’s what I mean: We see lots of small donations but not a lot of commitments of the time and effort required to drive real change. Lots of reshares of other people’s thoughts but very few individual stands actually being taken. Lots of “we messed up” but few specifics on how or where or what the plan is to do better. Lots of 5 and 10 point action plans from brands but no clear vision or objectives or ways to ensure accountability over time.
The sad part? It works for a little while...we feel better for a day about the black squares we posted on our Instagram pages. We are proud of the very quick action we took to speak out or share others’ content. I’m not saying these are bad things. I’m saying they are more like dopamine hits that ultimately do a better job of making us “feel” better than they do of actually making us “be” better as individuals and organizations.
I’ve personally bought into this. And, we bought into it at Nisolo last spring too. Admittedly, there was a lot of pressure from our team and certainly from society at large to “speak up quickly” and “act fast” (in what could realistically only be sub-par manners on such short timelines). We messed up and gave in.
We focused on the low hanging fruit that would make us and our community feel better fast. Right out of the gate, we shared our pledges. We did things like saying “we messed up,” but we weren’t specific on how. We made donations to organizations we barely knew or had even evaluated (when we were not profitable and cash was needed more than ever during a global pandemic ), and we shared our company wide racial demographics transparently without clearly stating why or setting future goals for them.
Everyone felt better there for a little bit. And, then what? Well, then everyone got busy with other stuff again. And looking back, those things that made us feel better in the short-term did very little, if anything, to drive long-term change within our organization or community.
Here’s the truth: fighting for racial justice in this country is far too important for us to continue to only look for the low hanging fruit that makes us feel better.
If each time our eyes are opened as a society all we do are the easier things that make us feel better, doesn’t that leave us at significant risk of looking backward and realizing that not that much actually changed?
And doesn’t that sound eerily familiar to the relatively stale period of progress for racial justice in the mainstream U.S. landscape for the many years leading up to George Floyd’s death? Sure, significant progress was made in certain circles, but in the mainstream U.S., apart from the occasional headline and 2-3 days of conversation that made us feel better as a society, we saw far too much apathy on one hand or indifference on the other for far too long. And, little changed.
Conversely, our hope is that we can look back on the monumental moment of George Floyd’s death in at least Nisolo’s history (and perhaps the country as a whole) and remember it as THE turning point when we stopped doing things to “feel” better and started doing things that actually made us “be” better.
But yes, there is a catch. Like any other area of life that we’re trying to be better in (Ex. athletics, weight loss, business growth, perfecting an instrument, etc.), the reality is that “being better” requires an entirely different approach than “feeling better” about ourselves. First and foremost, driving meaningful change requires a commitment and accountability. Meaningful change requires meaningful effort, and meaningful effort requires meaningful time and attention. In any area of life, it’s not the quick things that make us feel better that drive change. Rather, it’s the harder work of actually doing better that makes the difference and drives true progress.
But aren’t we too busy for all this? Aren’t we too focused on other legitimately important work for the meaningful and intentional pursuit of racial justice to be realistic in our own lives or within our organizations? Especially during a pandemic?
I’ve spent the majority of my life living in the South and even went to Ole Miss. Having grown up in the public school system, I was thrown off by the extent of cultural segregation I saw quickly on campus. It didn’t take more than a week to hear racial slurs and see racism firsthand. Enraged, I helped start an organization focused on racial reconciliation and remained involved for most of undergraduate school. Head and heart, I was ‘all in’ there for a while in the fight for racial justice.
But, as years passed and interests led me toward other causes that would eventually lead to starting Nisolo, I did what many of us do. I did what most of us have already done since we were outraged once again last spring. I got busy. I put the seed that at one point had potential to contribute toward meaningful change on the backburner. Out of sight, out of mind (which, sidenote, my willingness to do this demonstrates firsthand the privilege society offers me as a white person). At least subconsciously, I even justified this decision by thinking something along these lines: “I have other important things to do. I want to address poverty and climate change on a global scale, which means I need to focus on helping change the fashion industry. I don’t have time to focus on racial justice too, so I’ll leave that important work to those who feel most called to it.”
I effectively went from 100 to 0, and even tried to morally justify this decision. What I needed to recognize was this: pursuing racial justice and other important things in life are not mutually exclusive and they must happen simultaneously.
I get it, we all have important stuff to do. Whether you are a mom with several kids or running a business (or both), or perhaps working on the front lines during a global pandemic, we are all called to various forms of important work and focus areas in our lives. The point here is that this “other” important work we are doing should not and cannot keep us from consistently participating in the pursuit of racial justice if we want society to truly progress to a new level of racial equality.
To those most passionate about racial justice or most affected by racial injustice, this point is such an obvious one that it is likely frustrating to even have to read. Other readers may not have experienced this tension yet (which calls into question whether you intent on making a significant contribution toward racial justice), and still, I imagine there are some of you out there who are like me and have often found themselves somewhere in the middle and need to come to terms with this point more clearly. As a society (especially white people), we’ve got to stop believing (dare I say conveniently?) that the important work we are doing in our lives and participation in the fight for racial justice cannot happen simultaneously. This belief keeps us on the sidelines.
If we ever want this country to be a place that upholds the truth that all men and women are created equal and that justice is a human right for everyone, then we all have to get off the sidelines and stay in the game.
Organizations are perhaps the biggest offenders of making this mistake. Businesses, non-profits, places of worship, governmental entities, etc. make this argument: “Our focus is on X important thing. We do not exist as an organization to combat racial injustice, and therefore, it cannot be a major priority.”
At Nisolo, we did this without even realizing it. Our core intent is to convince the fashion industry to value people and the planet as much as the dollars of consumers. We are first and foremost committed to fighting for worker welfare (specifically relating to wages, healthcare, and safety within the supply chain of the fashion industry) and to combating climate change through the reduction and offsetting of carbon emissions. Because we are so passionate about this intent, the closest thing to “actively pursuing racial justice” before 2020 fell within a generic and sub-par focus on “diversity and inclusion” internally. “Pursuing racial justice” looked like very basic things such as tweaking our recruitment strategy to be more inclusive or increasing the diversity represented in our photos or updating basic policies in our staff manual to be more inclusive.
Like many organizations, while we were making a few “right” moves here or there as it related to racial justice, the reality is that we were more focused on making sure we “did not do anything wrong” when all along, we should have been focused on “doing what was right.”
In his book How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi articulates what we were doing in a more chilling and direct manner:
“The opposite of racist isn't 'not racist.' It is 'anti-racist.'...One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an anti-racist. There is no in-between safe space of 'not racist.’”
In his article “When Silence is Betrayal,” Seth Cohen goes on to summarize some of Kendi’s main points sharing that “to be antiracist requires intention and action, a recognition of what is wrong and an undertaking to do what is right.”
Historically, while we had an occasional appearance on the field in the fight for racial justice at Nisolo, we largely remained on the sidelines.
We were (at least subconsciously) trying to live in an in-between safe space of “not racist” as an organization that Kendi would rightfully argue simply does not exist.
We fell into the thought trap of believing that the important work we were doing fighting for justice for people and the planet within the fashion industry meant we couldn’t play an active role in pursuing racial justice. Moreover, we fell into the thought trap that “not doing anything wrong” was enough and that we could leave “doing what was right” in the fight for racial justice to the organizations that were created for that primary purpose.
Coupled with the tragedies that came before and after it, George Floyd’s death was the pinnacle moment that changed our hearts, opened up our minds, and blew through our thought ceilings.
Put simply, I was wrong. We were wrong. On so many levels.
As Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “the time is always right to do what is right.” There’s no excuse for standing on the sidelines: pursuing racial justice and other important things in life can happen simultaneously and for the sake of a society where equality and justice can actually exist, they must happen simultaneously.
To recap where we are so far, again, I get it. We are all busy. We have important work to do as individuals and organizations. But if you are telling yourself (or leadership at your organization is telling you) that you cannot play an active role in the pursuit of racial justice because you are already focused on other important work, I encourage you to break through that thought ceiling for this reason:
The reality is that we as individuals and as organizations are quite good at managing many important priorities at once. We have to do this all the time. All of us can make a meaningful contribution toward the fight for racial justice AND do the other important work we are called to at once. Like any other priorities we juggle, it just takes intentional planning and decision making.
If you or your organization is on the sidelines, all it takes to get back in the game is committing to racial justice as a priority and planning well to ensure it remains a priority amidst the other important work you are doing.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you or or your organization are already “all in” on pursuing racial justice, intentional planning can ensure that you not only stay on the field but also that you are able to execute well on the commitments you have to other important endeavors.
Not shockingly, we made mistakes on this end of the spectrum at Nisolo as well. There were points in time when we let the pendulum swing too far the other direction. In the midst of a global pandemic when our business was (and still is) fighting as hard as it could to survive, there were times when we should have slowed down our pursuit of racial justice and should have struck a better balance between racial justice and our commitments to not only our vision as an organization but also our need to come out of the pandemic alive.
At the moment when we were struggling with this tension the most as a leadership team, I went to my friend Artair (who is helping lead his organization through a 3 year long transformation toward the pursuit of racial justice) and vulnerably said, “Collectively, Artair, we’ve spent hundreds of hours on Nisolo’s Antiracism Plan of Action…where is the line in the sand between fighting for racial justice and ensuring we adhere to our core vision and focus as a company...where is the line between fighting for racial justice and keeping our doors open in a challenging environment?”
Very wisely, he responded with one word: “time.” “This takes time, Patrick. Every organization and every individual is in a different place...you have to choose the pace that makes the most sense for the season that you are in…” Here’s my spin on Artair’s point:
Choose the pace, but be in the game. The pace at which we pursue racial justice within our organizations or our lives might be negotiable (depending on the season we are in), but the consistent pursuit of it should not be negotiable.
We all need to make the cognizant choice to either intentionally commit or not commit to driving meaningful change in the pursuit of racial justice. No more in between. And, we all need to recognize that “commitment” is only meaningful and sustainable long-term when it is coupled with a plan that backs it up.
4. If we TRULY want progress, we need a better strategic plan that is baked into our lives.
Let’s face it, the racial injustice and racial inequity we see in our society today is systemic in nature. Why for a second do we think that our plans to dismantle it do not have to be thorough, strategic, well-organized, and well prioritized? In other words,
legitimate plans to combat systemic racism require systematic methodology.
This isn’t where we started with what has become our Nisolo Racial Justice Plan of Action, but after a long and bumpy journey, it is where we have landed.
Yes, you’ll see that it is thorough and a lot at first, but after making a ton of our own mistakes and finally learning to listen, we’re convinced that a strong and clear plan is the only way to successfully manage our pursuit of racial justice and the other important things we’re committed to in life. In Nisolo terms, we’ve learned it’s the only way we can pursue both our vision as a company and meaningfully pursue racial justice simultaneously.
Spoiler alert: this approach is not meant for those who are focused on “feeling better” or quickly calming down their internal culture, customer base, or community. This is not a list of 5-10 commitments and basic tracking and accountability on next steps. This is not a one-time or annual donation commitment. This is not meant to be generically folded into your diversity and inclusion initiatives.
If you are not satisfied with what you’ve done, your family has done, your workplace, place of worship, organization, or community has done in the pursuit of racial justice, this framework and approach may be right for you.
It is for those who are serious about creating fundamental change in their personal lives, families, and organizations. It requires intention, contribution from all stakeholders, likely requires project management tools, and definitely requires asking the hard questions like “how does our vision for pursuing racial justice facilitate or interfere with the pursuit of our core intent, and how do we balance our time and efforts toward it vs. the primary reason we exist as an organization?”
This framework and approach (see the pyramid diagram further down in this post and the template we share at the very end) can be scaled up to very large organizations in elaborate spreadsheets or can be simplified all the way down to a one-pager plan for you or your family.
At the end of the day, this is an edit to the genetic code of how you operate, and it will ensure your commitment will drive meaningful change and be around for the long haul...even when we get justifiably distracted again and busy on other important work.
This approach is far from perfect and has a long way to go. However, we hope that by sharing it in its current form, it will spark positive thoughts, conversations, and actions in the personal and professional lives of those who see it. Additionally, as I mentioned, we are not experts. We welcome and value all feedback that supports us in our racial justice work.
Before we dive into how it works and where we’ve landed as an organization, some long overdue acknowledgements are in order for the many people who impacted our thought process and approach as an organization in more ways than they realize.
When you spend a year feeling like the emoji with its mind exploding (🤯), it’s hard to even know where to start and impossible to not leave several people out when trying to acknowledge those who have contributed to our learnings as individuals and collectively as a team in the last year. Nevertheless, here we go: We’d like to express our gratitude for those working on a more global scale to address racial justice such as Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist and Anthea Kelsick, the Co-CEO of B Lab in the U.S. and Canada. We’d like to thank Big Path Capital and Ryan Pintado-Vertner, Founder of Smoketown, for hosting and moderating a series directed to CEOs: “How Impact Leaders & Companies Can Be Antiracist.” And, within the fashion sector specifically, we’d like to acknowledge the contributions of The Root Podcast, a 6-part series about decolonizing the sustainable fashion industry hosted by Dominique Drakeford, Founder of Melanin and Sustainable Style, and Kestrel Jenkins, Founder of the Conscious Chatter podcast. We’d also like to thank Aja Barber, a writer and fashion consultant with an expertise in race, intersectional feminism, and fashion.
And, moving to a more local to Nashville level but having a big impact on us as well, we’d like to thank Carlos Whittaker, an author and public speaker who has taken racial justice head on in an admirable manner that is bold and direct yet full of love. And, definitely a big thanks to Brynn Plummer, the VP of Inclusion & Community Relations at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center who has impacted several people on our team as well as our overall approach. Thank you as well to close friends like Artair Rogers and Patrick Weems who continually inspire us as they charge on in midway through their second decade of front line work in different sectors of the fight for racial justice in this country.
A huge thanks goes out to the entire Nisolo team (and especially looking at you, Omari Whyte, for your leadership in this process), 100% of whom were brave enough to first look inward as we wrestled how to do our best, collectively, outward as a team. And last but not least, thank you above all to our customers and community who have shared countless resources and valuable perspectives as well. The list could go on, but you know who you are, and we are immensely grateful for your support in helping us recraft our racial justice DNA at Nisolo.
What exactly led to our approach and methodical action plan?
To quickly explain how we ended up embracing the strategic pyramid approach we’ll explore in the next section of this post, it’s important to recap the mistakes we made and learnings that led to our conclusions: We made the mistake like many organizations have, at least subconsciously, of focusing on quick and easier actions and commitments that make us “feel better” but did very little to help us “be better”. We made the mistake of thinking that because our vision was narrow and focused on specific areas of social and environmental justice within fashion that this meant we could not successfully prioritize both that focus and the pursuit of racial justice simultaneously.
Our next big mistake was thinking that on a couple of offsites and virtual hangs we could quickly and successfully take in the very passionate ideas of our entire team and align seamlessly on those that were “within scope” and those that weren’t or on those that should be prioritized, and those that shouldn’t, etc. Using the half-baked analogy of a “marathon” (representing self-awareness and exposure to the root issues and subsequent proposed solutions of racial injustice), we realized that even on our own team, while the level of passion for “running in the race of pursuing racial justice” at Nisolo was quite similar, we were all starting at very different miles based on our historical exposure and individual experiences and that we were all far from expert marathon runners.
As if this was not already complicated enough, we then mistakenly assumed that our team’s ideas would align well with the desires of other Nisolo stakeholders such as those voiced by producers within our supply chain or our investors, or even our customers. And of course, we mistakenly thought that this diversity of ideas would align with what actual experts were saying.
Finally, there was one huge decision we had to make, which was the most difficult one we faced throughout the entire process: is our approach to addressing racial justice going to be wide in scope or are we going to go deep on what we feel is the most urgent need in the U.S. today?
Obviously, there are forms of systemic discrimination and oppression happening in every corner of the world toward not only Black people but various races and people of color in general. There is also injustice occurring based on religious belief, sexual orientation, gender identity, and so on. All of this is painful to see and experience, and it stirs our hearts and minds in a big way. These injustices need serious attention and a Plan of Action to better support the oppressed groups and individuals who are most affected.
After wrestling with the scope of our approach, this came down to a breadth vs. depth decision on strategy relating to social justice and racial justice specifically. In order to have a meaningful impact on racial justice in the U.S., we decided to start by focusing on injustice toward the Black community. At Nisolo, we need to get that right, and we know doing so takes a tremendous amount of effort, commitment, and focus we wouldn’t be able to give if we tried to tackle justice across a wide range of oppression at once. This was an unpopular decision for everyone, including me.
This doesn’t mean that we won’t expand our efforts beyond addressing injustice toward the Black community over time as we make progress towards our goals. In fact, one of the great benefits of this framework is that it is applicable to the pursuit of justice in any form. And, the work that we’re doing within our Plan of Action to implement things like diversity and bias training, overhauling our recruitment strategy with a stronger focus on diversity in general, and creating partnerships with minority-owned businesses are a few examples of actions that will directly benefit other marginalized groups as well.
While we first need to see significant traction vs. where we’ve been at Nisolo in the pursuit of racial justice for the Black community, we look forward to applying this same framework to combat other forms of injustice in the future as our bandwidth, scale, and resources grow as an organization and certainly will continue to look for and listen to obvious ways we can make changes to support other oppressed groups in the meantime.
The truth is, when it comes to racial justice and (and any form of justice for that matter), inevitably, we all have different ideas of what matters most and what we should focus on next. And because these ideas are in some way tied to our personal values, these ideas are rarely held loosely and often come with a lot of well-merited emotion and passion.
If you’ve truly been “in it” together at your organization or even your family over the last year...you know exactly what I mean here. After doing a lot of listening, what we got instead of clear priorities and alignment on next steps was quite the opposite: we got (literally) thousands of ideas across all kinds of scopes on how Nisolo should address the topic of racial justice and antiracism.
The beautiful thing about this messy process outlined in this section? It finally forced us to get smarter. We realized that just like the framework we’ve developed to achieve our vision at Nisolo, we needed alignment way further upstream. We needed a detailed Racial Justice Strategic Plan with a clear vision, clear pillars that would make that vision a reality, clear objectives within those pillars that would steer our approach, and clear initiatives (actions) for each objective that would bring it all to life.
Lastly, we realized that in order to ensure a healthy balance between upholding our Core Vision as a company (which does not contemplate a focus on racial justice directly) AND consistently pursue racial justice (without the threat of becoming hot and cold), our Strategic Plan to pursue racial justice needed to permanently find a home within our broader Blueprint and Strategic Framework for the entire company. This would allow us to prioritize well and ensure our Action Plan would be revisited and enhanced on the same cadence as any strategic endeavor we pursue in the future.
From here, forward, I’ll continue to refer to what has become our Strategic Plan as our “Racial Justice Plan of Action” to keep things simple, but admittedly, I’m reluctant to do so because of the association with all of the 5-10 point “action”plans” out there that make us “feel better” but usually lack the substance to create sustained change.
Our Plan of Action is far from perfect, but it’s what works for now at Nisolo until we can learn more from the mistakes we’re making in real time today, and at the very least, we hope our approach help you or your organization avoid some of the major potholes we’ve hit along our journey.
5. Nisolo’s Racial Justice Plan of Action
As shared in detail above, when we started to brainstorm and formulate the many ways in which our team wanted to contribute towards racial justice, it was clear that we needed a way to organize our efforts and hold ourselves accountable for taking action. We looked to the framework that we use for our Strategic Planning as the best way to keep us focused along the way. And, this is how it works:
Above we’ve outlined our vision for meaningful and proactive efforts to contribute towards racial justice across our team.
To create a system that prioritizes and drives antiracism initiatives to completion, we’ve split our vision into pillars. Each of these pillars has its own specific vision of how it can support antiracism. We created subcommittees within our team for each of these individual pillars to hold ourselves accountable.
Within each pillar, the subcommittees identified our intentions and targets as key objectives. Each of the steps or actions that we take should support these objectives to remain focused on doing the work that creates meaningful, sustainable change. It’s an easy way to categorize our work.
Those steps or actions are called initiatives, and we turn each great idea, action or project into one. Our plan includes as many as 30+ initiatives within any given pillar.
- Vision - Our vision is the high-level guidance for our entire organization to direct efforts toward. It summarizes our unified goal of meaningful and proactive contribution towards racial justice.
- Pillars - Below our vision, we’ve created pillars that systematically split out the work needed to accomplish our vision. Each pillar has a subcommittee made up of Nisolo team members (who meet at least monthly in most cases and quarterly in a few cases) who are accountable for leading the charge on racial justice within that pillar. Each subcommittee has created a vision for the pillar that outlines how the pillar supports our overall vision for racial justice. The 6 Pillar subcommittees we’ve elected to achieve our Vision for Racial Justice include Team Learning, Internal Process & Performance Management, Recruitment, Partnering with Black-Owned Businesses, Community Involvement, and Promoting Racial Justice.
- Objectives - Within each pillar, the subcommittees identified our intentions and targets that bring the pillar to life as key objectives. Each of the steps, projects, and actions that we take should support these objectives and remain focused on doing the work that creates meaningful, sustainable change. This is a very clear and important way of organizing our work to ensure we’re tracking toward our overall vision.
- Initiatives - The actual steps, projects, or actions we take are called initiatives. We turn each great idea into an initiative, prioritize it based on urgency, importance, and the effort required to complete it and attach it to one of the objectives for the pillar it falls under. Our full plan that lives in spreadsheets includes 30+ initiatives within any given pillar or subcommittee, which helps explain why they need to be well organized and clearly prioritized.
With this framework in mind, let’s walk through some of the details of our Racial Justice Plan of Action starting with the Vision. We’ll then outline Pillars, Objectives, and Initiatives that support this Vision. Please do note, that much of this has been summarized from our actual strategy to make it all more digestible for this post.
Our Racial Justice Vision
Please note, this is an abbreviated summary of the overall vision, but does contain much of the core essence.
Over the past year, Nisolo was moved and further awakened by the racial injustice that still exists in our communities today. Learning from our mistakes and from internal discussions, company-wide exploration, outside expertise, and partnerships with external resources, we’ve created a detailed and structured plan to guide our antiracism work and ensure our efforts positively impact our community for the long-haul. The team, the people, the humans behind Nisolo are committed to pursuing antiracism and contributing meaningfully towards a new future.
Through company-wide internal exploration, we’ve self-identified that we’ve been a “laggard” to “late majority” (at best) in regard to our pursuit of racial justice compared to a broad look at other businesses. Our vision is for our objectives to propel us to be an “early adopter” in our pursuit of racial justice by marrying Nisolo’s strengths and competitive advantages to clear needs within the racial justice movement.
Our vision is to remain focused on strategy, actions, goals, and accountability measures that will ensure the work we are doing within our pursuit of racial justice goes far beyond “feeling better” or even just “doing better” from time to time and squarely focuses on “being better” for the long haul.
Our Racial Justice Pillars, Subcommittees, Objectives, and Initiatives
1. Team Learning
Team Learning Vision:
We believe that one of the most powerful tools for championing racial justice is education and learning. We’re thoughtful and intentional in our pursuit of racial justice. We’re open in sharing our journeys, reflecting, and learning as we move toward greater awareness of biases and work to break down barriers.
Objective 1: Educate Our Team
Develop the framework for company-wide required training and development sessions focused on antiracism and racial justice.
Example Initiatives (as a reminder, each Pillar/Subcommittee has 30+ action items within their roadmap in place, but we are sharing a few examples of each throughout this post):
Started creating a required, company-wide racial justice curriculum covering Biases, Privilege, Intersectionality, Microaggressions, White Saviorism, Discrimination, Equality and Black Culture/History, etc.
Curated a library of racial justice resources for our team to explore.
Objective 2: Interweave Team Learning into Our Organization
Create the framework to ensure accountability to our objectives throughout the organization, in addition to learning from others and sharing our best practices.
Implemented a team learning calendar for racial justice training.
Encouraged 1-on-1 accountability across our team to support employees in their racial justice journey.
Objective 3: Engage our Community in Our Learning Journey
Utilize experts and other racial justice resources in our local community and beyond to create the best steps towards an antiracist culture.
Connected with external racial justice resources to help craft and teach our learning curriculum.
Planning to further partner with experts in racial justice on our antiracism best practices.
Shared our journey with the B Corp community so that they can consider implementing similar strategies.
Objective 4: Engage our Team in Our Learning Journey
Identify the topics of racial justice learning that our team can actively participate in both learning and peer teaching throughout the team.
Creating a curriculum topic for Black Culture/History where our team can learn and peer teach about topics where Black culture has had an influence (Music, Sports, Movies, etc.)
2. Internal Process & Performance Management
Internal Process & Performance Management Vision:
In order to truly create sustainable racial justice efforts, it’s important for organizations to take a systematic approach. We aim to institutionalize racial justice into our internal processes to tackle both our short and long-term racial justice goals in a way that supports continuous progression.
Objective 1: Uphold Our Racial Justice Vision
Hold subcommittees accountable for creating and executing initiatives that push our racial justice efforts forward and don’t diverge from the vision.
Created guidance and targets for subcommittees to create relevant and impactful objectives and initiatives towards our vision.
Created regular checkpoints for subcommittees to evaluate their progress against their objectives and maintain accountability.
Objective 2: Enhance Company Policies Through A Racial Justice Lens
Review and, if necessary, revise our internal policies to better align with and support our racial justice vision.
Adding and encouraging use of racial justice-specific volunteering hours to our forthcoming paid volunteer hours program.
Recognizing net new company holidays (Juneteenth and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, for example) and encouraging team members to use this time off for racial justice work.
Objective 3: Require Racial Justice Training & Adherence
In partnership with our Team Learning subcommittee, set processes and accountability around racial justice training. Create the structure, goals & tracking tools to ensure that both Nisolo as an organization and individual employees are supported and empowered to adhere to our racial justice vision.
We encourage every Nisolo employee to be part of, and actively contribute to, an racial justice subcommittee.
The Nisolo Executive team members have created a personal racial justice plan and will be encouraging all team members to do the same
All Executive leadership will undergo diversity training.
Objective 4: Keep Stakeholders Informed
Develop and implement communications strategy to keep employees, investors, customers, partners, vendors and suppliers regularly informed of our racial justice plans and progress.
Created a weekly checkpoint in our Staff Meeting to discuss racial justice plans, progress and other key updates.
Building in racial justice updates into our calendar to be shared across Marketing channels and encouraging our customers play a part in holding us accountable over time.
We’ll strive to increase Black representation on our team through diversification of our applicant pool and creation of an inclusive recruiting process. Our vision is to build, develop and retain a diverse team who can leverage their unique perspectives to carry out Nisolo’s company vision to push the fashion industry in a sustainable direction.
Objective 1: Diversify our Applicant Pool
Partner with Black external partners and leaders in the community to overhaul our templates and processes for hiring to expand our reach and the number of Black potential candidates for any given role.
Beginning to actively post our job opportunities in diverse environments and Black professional groups.
Creating prominent real estate for our Equal Opportunity Employment statement and racial justice plan on our Careers page.
Objective 2: Update Hiring Process
Support our managers by improving our existing hiring processes, and providing new templates and training for best practices in Black talent acquisition.
We’ll implement new training for hiring managers to ensure that they’re creating a diverse applicant pool.
We’re beginning to require a proven exploration of a diverse applicant pool before moving forward with filling an open position.
Objective 3: Retain Diverse Talent
Partner with our Team Learning subcommittee on team-wide training to help retain Black talent and create an antiracist environment as we continue to grow our team.
We’ll create new training programs for managers and our team to ensure that we’re fostering an actively antiracist environment that Black candidates can thrive in.
4. Partnering with Black-owned Businesses
Partnering with Black-owned Businesses Vision:
In order to create a positive impact on the Black community at scale, we plan to enter into partnerships with Black-owned businesses to both help them generate revenue and gain exposure from our Nisolo audience. We’ll sell products from Black creators, collaborate on product designs, utilize the services of Black professionals, and find ways to uplift Black-owned businesses on a regular basis.
Objective 1: Proactively Support the Growth of Black-owned Businesses
Regularly and proactively reach out to Black-owned businesses to identify meaningful opportunities to partner and help them grow.
We’re beginning to research and reach out to Black business owners to identify the best ways to partner that leverage our core strengths and audience to their advantage.
Objective 2: Grow our Selection of Products from Black-owned Businesses
Collaborate and partner with Black-owned businesses, and Black fashion designers to grow our product selection to directly support the Black community.
We’re featuring products from Black-owned businesses within our Ethical Marketplace and Mask Marketplace.
We’re prioritizing lasting, sustainable partnerships with Black-owned businesses over short-term collaborations.
Objective 3: Support our Local Black-owned Businesses
Facilitate the growth of local Black-owned businesses through employing strategies that offer long-term, sustainable benefit to them.
We’ll create a directory of local Black-owned businesses for our employees and Nashville network.
We’ll promote local Black-owned businesses through our flagship retail location in a historically Black neighborhood, North Nashville.
Objective 4: Make the Choice to Shop Black-owned
Make an intentional choice to spend dollars at Black-owned businesses when we need services and/or goods as both an organization and individuals.
We’ll seek out Black-owned businesses as we enlist the help of vendors and third-party service providers.
5. Community Involvement
Community Involvement Vision:
As a proud member of the North Nashville community (where our headquarters is located), we seek to strengthen relationships and provide opportunities through volunteering, donating, and other ways in which our core strengths can benefit our neighbors. Our goal is to lend our hands and learn from the leaders in this diverse, predominately-Black community to participate in a productive and meaningful way.
Objective 1: Identify and Consult Local Leaders
In coordination with local leaders in the community, identify where the greatest needs are and where we can significantly contribute.
We’ve met with local leaders to assess where we can be most effective in deploying our resources.
We’ve identified key focus areas that we can most significantly contribute to in our community and beyond.
Objective 2: Build Relationships with Local Resources
Develop meaningful relationships with businesses and community leaders in North Nashville, where our headquarters is located, to help further refine our plan and provide specific outlets that can benefit from our work.
We’re continuing to build close relationships with other North Nashville businesses and leaders within the community.
We’ve identified a list of future outreach opportunities to collaboratively work towards ending systemic racism within our community.
A Nisolo representative will be present at 75% of District 21, Nashville community meetings, with an emphasis on occurrences that are topically relevant to our goal of helping and serving the community.
Objective 3: Volunteering
Create a program and framework that encourages racial justice-focused volunteer work at the local level so that our employees both collectively and individually are empowered to do their part.
Nisolo will pay for volunteer hours with organizations serving Black Americans related to racial justice and fall within the scope of our vision.
We’re in the process of creating an incentive program with approved organizations working towards racial justice.
Objective 4: Give Meaningful Donations
Create an organizational donation program that works towards funding racial justice programs in need, serves the community and compliments our existing charitable work.
We’ve actively donated to organizations like Gideon’s Army of Nashville and will scale up charitable donations as our business grows and more capital is available.
6. Promoting Racial Justice
Promoting Racial Justice Vision:
In order to combat racial injustices, we’ll use our platforms to share meaningful content to uplift Black voices, create accountability for our racial justice plan, and share important learnings along the way. We’ll collaborate and consult with Black creators and business owners to bring their story to life for our audience and ensure that we are giving significant voice to Black experts especially within the areas of our primary content as a brand including fashion, design, social and environmental justice, etc.
Objective 1: Share Nisolo’s Racial Justice Journey
Share and continuously update our audience of our progress towards our racial justice vision. In addition to creating accountability, we’ll transparently share our journey and teachable moments along the way.
We’ve shared our racial justice journey and plan publicly. (You’re reading it right now!)
We’ll provide regular updates across our Marketing channels on a quarterly basis.
Objective 2: Share Non-Nisolo Specific Racial Justice Content
Share content that celebrates the impact and legacy of Black Americans and recognizes important dates, events, and news surrounding racial justice.
We honored the life and impact of Martin Luther King Jr. this January.
We’ll use our brand platform to shed light on other important events and moments of recognition, triumph, and loss.
Objective 3: Elevate the Work of Black People Within Our Core Branded Content
Feature Black creatives, experts, models, influencers, academics, and personalities in the fashion industry and adjacent topics. And, uplift voices of Black-owned businesses and brands who share our vision for the fashion industry.
We sponsored the creation of The Root, a podcast showcasing a collection of stories that provide historical and cultural context when it comes to racial inequality and how it intersects with the fashion industry.
We’ll increase the representation of Black people in our photoshoots through more intentionally inclusive model selection.
We’ve created a directory of Black creatives, experts, models, influencers, academics, personalities, and businesses/brands to collaborate with and promote across our platform. Want to add to it? Shoot us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
While these were just a few examples of the 100+ initiatives we are focusing on, if you’ve made it to this point in our post, you now understand the amount of planning, organization, and work that goes into building a sustainable racial justice plan for the long haul.
You may be wondering, “Even once Once so many initiatives are in place, how do the subcommittees know where to start in turning them into action”? Again, each subcommittee uses a scoring system that combines urgency, effort and impact together to prioritize the most important initiatives at the top of their subcommittee’s priority list.
This scoring system ensures that our team focuses their efforts on the most crucial areas where improvement is needed. Not all of our pillar subcommittees are in the same place in their roadmap, but the objectives are clear and work is beginning to unfold.
As we laid out in the plan above, creating consistent checkpoints will ensure that we’re holding ourselves (and individual subcommittees) accountable to the ongoing pursuit of racial justice. By sticking to our framework of monthly tracking of KPIs across the company, required subcommittee checkpoints, and sharing within our Staff Meetings, we can maximize our racial justice impact from our resources leading to more meaningful change. Our Racial Justice Plan of Action is one of 8 long-term core focuses at the total business level (right up there with scale, profitability, and surviving Covid), and we intend to continue prioritizing it in tangible manners as well as leveraging it as a lens through which we do everything as an organization.
Thank you for exploring all of this with us.
6. Now, Let's Take Action
If this post and our overall approach resonates in some way, we’d greatly appreciate it if you would consider taking some of the below steps.
Utilize our Racial Justice Plan of Action Template.
We’re making the template for this plan available to everyone to help individuals and organizations take the first step toward ‘being better’ instead of ‘feeling better’. The framework, from vision through initiatives, can be downloaded or shared with anyone who needs to see it: your team at work, place of worship, friends, family, your favorite brand, or on social media.
The best part? This framework (that brings to life in a spreadsheet the pyramid image we shared midway through this post) can be scaled up into 1000s of rows of initiatives and actions by larger organizations or scaled down to fit on one page for you to create an individual action plan for you or your family as well.
Share this Racial Justice Plan of Action.
We encourage you to take action as an individual or with your peers. Engage your family, friends, and workplace to set goals and outline a plan you can take accountable action on, and please help share this approach out to those you think can benefit from it.
We’ve posted the summary of this post over on our Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts, and would love your feedback/comments and for you to consider sharing with your friends and family.
We want to hear from you.
This plan will continue to develop as we continue to learn from our mistakes and grow as an organization. It’s far from perfect, so we’d love both your encouragement and constructive criticism on where we are today in the process. Send us a note to email@example.com. We value your feedback more than you know.
Let’s “be better,” together.
As individuals, organizations, and society at large, we’ve got to stop doing the minimum amount that makes us “feel better” but does little to drive fundamental change. During monumental moments in racial justice history like the 1860s, 1900s, 1960s, and 1990s, the focus was on radical change and truly “being better.” Strategic plans were built and decisive action took place that transformed the world around us.
If we were to continue the momentum that took off in the spring of 2020 and focused not on the quick actions that make us feel better but instead on the strategic and well-prioritized approaches that allowed us to integrate the pursuit of racial justice right smack in the middle of the other important work we all have to do in our lives, what would the result be?
We believe the 2020s would be the next big leap in the fight for racial justice in this country.
Let’s “be better,” together.