Retail Panelists Discuss Inclusivity Inside and Outside Their Organizations

June 11, 2021 by Ansley Puckett
(Photo via Gap Inc. Media Relations)

Open to All and Yelp hosted a panel with leaders from Gap, H&M and The Body Shop to discuss ways to promote inclusivity on Thursday. 

Executives with the companies discussed rainbow-washing and inclusivity that goes beyond Pride Month. Rainbow-washing is the act of using rainbow and Pride imagery in advertising while investing a minimal effort in concrete change for the LGBTQ+ community.

The leaders said they believe retailers have a social responsibility to create safe spaces within their companies.

Calla Rongerude, director of Open to All, which is a nonprofit nondiscrimination campaign, said the companies on the panel embodied meaningful change in retail and outside of it in their work.

“I’m really, really pleased that we’re all talking about meaningful, authentic change,” Rongerude said. “I think all of these companies embody it.”

Michele Sizemore, the senior vice president of product development and operations at Gap Inc., said not only was the panel about open discussion but also about using its retail social power for good.

Michelle Sizemore

“Being an inclusive company is both a moral and a business imperative: It sends a message to the world that we stand for equality for all and that business can and should be a force for good. And it makes us a better, stronger company that reflects and serves the world in which we operate,” Sizemore wrote in an email after the panel.

During the event, the women discussed change and action on all levels of their companies, including from the associate level to the executive level. Diversity & Inclusion and Supplier Diversity Executive for H&M Donna Dozier Gordon said engaging employees in programs helps companies reach every level when committing to diversity and inclusion.

“It really all starts with building a culture of inclusion,” Gordon said.“If your team members and associates don’t feel commitment is real and genuine, then there’s no way that they’re going to be able to translate that or transmit that to customers.”

Hilary Lloyd, the vice president of marketing and responsibility for The Body Shop,echoed a similar statement, saying her company believes it should exist as a force for good.

“As a collective of retailers,our objective, ideally, should be to use commerce as a platform for committing to social change,” Lloyd said.

The Body Shop’s initiatives center around Pride this year, which Lloyd said is a long-term action that uses Pride to advocate for The Equality Act.

“Our activism campaigns tend to focus on action,” Lloyd said.“So, of course, certainly, we aim to advocate, educate, lend our platform, but perhaps most importantly, our goal is to seek progress and seek action, and most often that’s through policy change in our legislation.”

Sizemore also spoke about inclusivity in the workforce and the company’s Pride group, which she said has over 1,000 participating members.

“We believe that diverse voices are powerful, and it is our responsibility to ensure our employees, customers, and communities represent – and are part of – an inclusive and growing chorus,” Sizemore wrote.

According to Sizemore, the company’s diversity work also includes rigorous activity outside of Pride Month, including signing letters opposing anti-transgender and discriminatory legislation. 

Gap Inc. is also involved in the Open to All Pledge, which publicly confirms that workplaces and stores are welcoming spaces for everyone. Each U.S. store also displays the Open to All sticker.

The leaders concluded the panel by committing to acting as an example to other businesses and demonstrating ways smaller businesses can be involved without as much monetary power.

“In order for this to work or to be successful, everyone has to feel like this touches them,” Gordon said. “So, create ways to get everyone feeling like diversity is something that they can attribute to.”

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