Balanced Equality and Balance Sheets

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The knowledge that COVID-19 vaccines would soon be reaching Americans hasn’t changed concerns about income equality. In fact, a November poll by research firm CivicScience revealed that worries about equality were a concern of 78% of those surveyed, its highest levels of the year to date.

That finding, along with earlier research results reported in previous articles, raised awareness among brands and some large companies and led to the introduction of new programs promoting equality and diversity in the workplace. However, a December article by the Washington Post on how 21 large companies furloughed thousands of employees while making sizable profits and distributing billions of dollars to its investors has raised many ire and worries.

Of the 21, Berkshire Hathaway led the pack with one of its subsidiaries laying off more than 13,000 workers while reporting a profit of $56 billion during the first six months of the pandemic. Walmart furloughed more than 1,200 workers from its corporate office while distributing more than $10 billion to its investors. Its CEO had earlier gone on record as saying that businesses shouldn’t just serve shareholders.

Many of the large companies that laid-off employees explained that it wasn’t a result of the pandemic but rather part of a broader restructuring plan. Regardless of the statements’ veracity, consumer concern, particularly among younger demographics, may come to bear over doing business with these companies in the future.

What should also concern brands is the anticipated changes in focus and priorities of Washington’s new leadership. In November by the Conference Board, that, coupled with a consumer confidence survey, showed a 9% decline in short-term outlook in business, income, and labor market conditions from just the previous month.

A large number of unemployed and those who have been or are on the verge of being evicted from their apartments and homes should be a concern to these large companies. It’s a loud signal for smaller brands and local merchants to step up and be seen as an integral part of the communities in which they serve.

Earlier articles had discussed how Gen Z and millennials are more prone than ever to give their business to brands that are important parts of their community. Stepping up now will not only help those in need but also possibly forge new and long-lasting relationships with community leaders and advocates.

It may also be an excellent time for local companies and brands to put a community advisory committee together that can help identify the main challenges being faced in the community. Getting people like these together will generate some worthwhile ideas and foster goodwill that no advertising can buy.

In addition to gathering input on how to foster more equality, ideas on how to assist those affected by furloughs might be sought. This could lead to one or more fundraising and collaborative partnerships with local nonprofits that will bring the brand closer to the community and result in goodwill and increased business for the company.

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