The People Behind the Label
Swiss goes on to explain just how chronic the economic imbalance is within the UK between how much is spent by the Black community and how much is invested in it. He says: “We contribute 25 to 32 billion pounds per year to the UK economy but receive 1% of venture capitalist funding, lose out on 3.2 billion pounds per year because of the ethnic pay gap, have 80% less savings than white households and after acquiring degrees from some of the most prestigious universities, we are still waiting two and a half years to get jobs that are equivalent to our qualifications.”
“The powerful thing about Black Pound Day is that it acknowledges the potential the Black community have to make economic change,” adds Shadi-sade Sarreshtehdarzadeh, Strategy Director at Ogilvy & Strategist at Ogilvy Roots, an internal D&I agency initiative which champions greater cultural and ethnic diversity in the industry.
But, she adds, it cannot just be the responsibility of the Black community to bring about change. It needs to be a collaborative approach. “It cannot be the responsibility of one community alone to make societal change, especially when they are a group that aren’t typically listened to or included in our modern society,” she explains. “If other people of colour, other minority groups, and white allies switched a usual purchase just once a month on Black Pound Day to the same item from a Black-owned business, can you imagine the change that would bring? That is the meaning of putting your money where your mouth is, because a black square on Instagram doesn’t give the economic empowerment that the Black community needs and deserves.”
This is ethos which underpins the authentic new campaign Ogilvy Roots have worked on with Black Pound Day and WPP Roots networks, entitled: ‘The People Behind the Label.’ The work is designed to amplify Black-owned businesses and sees Ogilvy Roots leading creative, GroupM supporting with media spend and GTB poised to redesign Black Pound Day’s website. The campaign is also designed to raise awareness of the Black Pound Day directory which can help people discover Black-owned businesses. “Community is crucial. Real change never came from one person, it takes a tide of people to make true lasting change,” Sarreshtehdarzadeh adds.
All that matters is action
Swiss is passionate about the power of action, not talks; in deeds not words. As he explains: “action is the only way to truly yield results; words are just a performative act of selfishness and are a form of enabling racism.”
He goes on to articulate the many forms this action can take, alongside supporting initiatives like Black Pound Day: “If people truly want to effect change, a large part of their activism is practicing silence and listening to those being affected by racism and racial discrimination. They need to brace themselves for a long journey of breaking down and rebuilding the worldview they’ve been socialised into by engaging with academic literature centred around the black experience as well as activists and educated allies that have really walked the path. Those are actions that will potentially affect the world and influence behavioural changes at a deeper level than words will.”
For Sarreshtehdarzadeh, progress is about long-term change, not a one-stop solution: “There are some quick fixes, but rather than focusing on ticking boxes to drive change quickly, we need to be focusing on driving deep rooted change. This isn’t an issue that can have a plaster put on it, it needs a hell of a lot of antiseptic and air to breathe.”
She believes this starts with ensuring that unconscious bias training is a mandate for all staff as well as enabling education to take place within the companies. While she feels, “it is not the job of minority groups to educate others,” she adds, that “it can be the job of agency heads to make sure the resources are there. Basic guidelines on how to talk about diversity and intersectionality help make conversations easier.”
She also speaks passionately about the need for more nuanced script writing and casting decisions that don’t simply extend to slotting in one diverse couple to a scene. Her invitation to agencies is to help educate their clients; to go on a journey with them and for senior leadership teams to empower their employees to stand up where they see fit. For Sarreshtehdarzadeh, she also wants to see an end to tick box recruitment, to allow everyone to have a seat at the table: “As a brown, mentally disabled woman, I don’t want people to give me opportunities based on the boxes I tick on a form, but instead based on me, my skills, my achievements, and my value. I am more than a diversity box ticked.”