Bolder Thinking Blog

Black Lives Matter: Canadian brands respond

June 25th, 2020 | Michael Lloy

Amid growing protests in response to the death of George Floyd, Canadian brands have signaled their commitment to, and ongoing support for, the fight against systemic racism.   

Brands released statements

Across industries, a vast majority of Canadian brands released either a statement from their CEO or posted on social media in solidarity. Reception was generally positive, but brands generally failed to foster ongoing conversations, with the majority of hashtags still pertaining to things such as COVID-19.  

CIBC promoted its racial justice initiatives on social media, utilizing Facebook to promote its increased investment in North American Black communities and released a statement from its CEO on Twitter. 

Similar to other brands, RBC outlined its monetary contribution to marginalized communities and released a statement from its CEO.  

Brands donated

Many major financial brands – although not all – backed up their statements of solidarity with donations to racial justice and community outreach organizations across Canada and the US. The donation amounts varied company to company, but most were directed to the NAACP and similar organizations. 

BMO donated $1 million to racial justice and inclusion organizations across North America. 

Aligned with its “Purpose to Boldly Grow the Good in Business and Life,” BMO donated funds to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Equal Justice Initiative, Greater Twin Cities United Way, and Canadian Anti-Hate Network. BMO may need to work harder than other brands to convince consumers of the sincerity of its anti-racism activism in Canada, especially after criticism earlier this year surrounding the handcuffing of a 12-year old indigenous girl and her grandfather at a BMO Vancouver branch over an identity confirmation issue.  

On June 4, 2020, CIBC announced increased investment into empowering Black communities. As part of the announcement, CIBC is providing $275,000 in new support to the Black community, in addition to its ongoing $425,000 annual contribution.  

Brands avoided controversy

Despite a willingness to denounce racism and donate to various anti-racism organizations, brands were hesitant to state or post “Black Lives Matter”, perhaps fearing pushback from “All Lives Matter”- pedaling customers and prospects. 

Wealthsimple was one of the only financial brands to mention Black Lives Matter. Wealthsimple also has a history of recognizing racial wealth discrimination and inequity, as evidenced in an article posted to their site in 2019.  

What we think  

Canadian brands need to be open to ongoing conversations. 

Although donations, CEO statements and brief social media posts are a good start, brands can do more in the fight against racial injustice. Anti-racism efforts and implicit bias training, pay equity (especially for women of color), and corporate lobbying for racial justice causes are key for companies wishing to tackle racism in their own institutions. From a social media marketing perspective, posts about racial justice shouldn’t be limited to a post-tragedy event, and brands should attempt to engage and educate their customers on racial injustice while listening to feedback on what they can do better to combat it.

Michael Lloy

Michael Lloy

Michael Lloy is a Research Analyst at Comperemedia, responsible for producing syndicated and custom reports, as well as providing marketing insights across Canadian Financial Services, Insurance and Telecom channels.