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Brands and publishers need to adopt a more proactive approach to matters of inclusion, equity and diversity.

By James Evelegh

Ali Hanan, pictured top-middle, speaking at the latest AOP Crunch event.

Last week, the AOP held its latest Crunch event: Brand spend accountability – how brands are working with publishers and the ad industry to demonstrate social responsibility.

One of the speakers was Ali Hanan, chief executive of Creative Equals, who talked about the huge rise, since the murder of George Floyd, in awareness around issues of inclusion, equity and diversity and how people increasingly want to be able to identify with the values of their employers, the companies they buy from and the producers of the content they consume.

If they don’t identify with their employers, increasingly, they will leave - #GreatResignation

Corporate social responsibility is no longer the yardstick she says companies should be judged by – far better to talk in terms of corporate social justice, which is a more proactive approach that impacts all aspects of a company’s operations.

Ali pointed out that the social fabric of the UK was changing fast and companies need to future proof their business by ridding themselves of outdated attitudes.

Ageist, sexist and racist attitudes are not good for business in the long term, because as Ali pointed out:

  • by 2030, 1 in 5 people in the UK will be over 65
  • 1 in 6 Gen-Zs now identify as Queer
  • the seventh most popular boy’s name in the UK in 2021 is Muhammad

Journalism, said Ali, had particular challenges, because only 0.7% of journalists are black meaning that the content we put out is overwhelmingly created and curated by middle class white people.

As the Harry and Meghan furore earlier this year demonstrated, it’s not good enough for the press to hide behind the Editors’ Code of Practice and pretend that racism does not exist in its midst.

Ali pointed to examples of ‘hate clickbait’ on mainstream news media sites. Publishers need to get better at distinguishing between ‘free speech’ and ‘hate speech’ because, she said, how we create and curate stories, the words we use and the pictures we show have real impact on real people.

Getting this wrong is bad in itself and also bad for business long term.

You can catch James Evelegh’s regular column in the InPubWeekly newsletter, which you can register to receive here.