In response to the racial reckoning that finally began in earnest in the summer of 2020, we as a company looked inward to see what we were doing right, where we could improve, and what we could proactively do to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
Even as forward-thinking, diversity-celebrating, and socially engaged retailer we were surprised, maybe even a bit shocked, at how far we still have to go,
But we started a process of introspection and improvement. This page will highlight some of what we’re learned, what we’re doing, and encourage ongoing learning and improvement in our efforts.
This was originally posted to our social media accounts on May 29, 2020 in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.
In crisis and turmoil, and in times of relative ease, the most vulnerable among us are always the most institutionally marginalized. It’s a shitty cycle.
While they are exceedingly common, this was a particularly harsh week to be Black in America. Murder, destruction, death by neglect, and turning the systems designed to protect us all into weapons of oppression all came bare and to the fore.
The experience of oppression and daily fears for your life is something most of us will never know. We’re in a country big on words and ideals that it can never seem to fully embrace, and indeed, has decided it would rather damage itself almost irreparably than help our fellow beings.
What we’re seeing now is the linear outcome of structures that allow the police to murder. We’re seeing what happens when our systems are designed to do the most damage to our communities of color. Generations of pain and injustice have been endured by so many and it’s unacceptable, it’s disgusting, and it needs to stop.
We all need to take a few moments to reflect upon what we’ve got, what we can do, where we stand, and how we will act. How are we going to take our place in the system and turn it to do the most good?
There are good answers. There are right answers. There are just answers. But none of them are the status quo yet. So we must continue to advocate, to speak up, and take action.
If you’re unsure of what to do you can always donate. Give to these, or any group working to support the marginalized, or working to reinvent our current systems, your time, money or energy.
Official George Floyd Memorial Fund
I Run With Maud
Black Vision Collective
Reclaim the Block
The Bail Project
Communities United Against Police Brutality
MN Freedom Find
DEI training will be mandatory for all employees at East Bay Natural Grocers. We will start with new hires for Castro Valley Natural Grocery (CVNG) and work backwards, this is due to pandemic operations and social distancing. We hope that when CVNG hires do “on the job” training in Alameda, that Alameda Natural Grocery employees can do the DEI course at home or come to Castro Valley and hop on a computer there. Plan to allocate an entire day to this. Doing the work is hard and it’s uncomfortable. Please lean into that discomfort.
This is different from DEI and something we need to find a scalable resource for. We will do our best and announce when resources go online.
We created a resource library of books and other forms of media that can be borrowed. If you have recommendations, please share, this needs to be curated by everyone.
We revisited when and how we involve law enforcement in store matters.
If anyone here wants or needs space to speak about this we’re all available. Please ask and we will make time, resources, and physical space. No pressure and no agenda. If you want a professional to facilitate, we will find one.
Diverse hiring teams: The majority of the interviews for East Bay Natural Grocers, Inc were and will continue to be done by team members of color. This happened naturally and has been key in developing our current team.
We will re-evaluate our job descriptions to use gender-neutral terms and change format writing style for broad demographic appeal.
Changes to the pre-interview process so it happens at the applicants convenience and would insure all applicants are asked the same questions.
We will reach out to minority advocacy groups in our area to connect with candidates and identify career fair opportunities. Beyond Emancipation is one example.
We’re very proud of the fact that almost all our the positions in our company have been filled from within. We will strive for even more transparency with interviews, promotions, and job postings to encourage more team member opportunities.
Our food system was built largely with Black contributions, yet the ongoing legacy of racism has greatly erased and sidelined Black participation in it at scale. As a result, brands owned by Black entrepreneurs and producers are vastly underrepresented in our industry.
Perhaps the most shocking thing we learned while re-evaluating our role and what we could do to support Black lives was the massive underrepresentation of Black businesses on our shelves.
After reviewing roughly 3,000 brands in our inventory, as of March 20201, we found only 13 Black-owned brands between both of our locations. That’s just 0.04% of our total brand inventory. It was a hard truth to learn and defied all assumptions. But we know we’re not alone in this disparity.
We recognize the need to do more to support and encourage Black entrepreneurs, food makers, farmers, and creators of color. We cannot be another barrier to entry. Further, we must act with more intentionality to find and foster Black-owned brands to diversify our industry and those who it serves.
The bottom line: Going forward, East Bay Natural Grocers Inc. will now consider racial equity and representation as a factor when choosing new brands to bring in, who those brands are designed for, and how we can foster and grow their success.
First, we will enhance support for the Black-owned brands we currently carry. That means lending our best promotional efforts towards boosting their profiles and products.
Next, our directive is to double the current list of Black-owned brands from 13 to 25. We will then steadily grow the list to 50, 75, until the first major milestone is reached at 100, or roughly 3% of our total brand inventory. Once in our store, we will give these brands at least 6 – 12 months of shelf space to grow and maintain steady sales, instead of the usual window that all brands currently receive. Additional milestones and efforts will be worked on at that time.
In addition, we will review what purchasing requirements may be exclusionary to producers of color and evaluate how to reconcile those. Everyone deserves access to retail space and opportunities.
Great products are too often missed because of inherent disadvantages that many Black-owned brands have at getting exposure. To correct this we put together this industry-specific 250+ Black-owned business directory. While It’s just a start, it was created to help with this project.
This directory is open-sourced and you’re highy encouraged to reference this, make a copy for yourselves, and to share with those you think will benefit. We will be sharing through industry groups like INFRA for wider exposure. You’re highly encouraged to explore it, shop from it, and bring these Black-Owned brands into your lives.
Help us grow this thing. We encourage you to add any brands you know or love. You can do that using this form. We will maintain the directory and edit submissions for consistency.
We need more people on board, and we need your help. Please reach out with your comments/questions/concerns, and we’ll work through them. Together we will continue to build a product set that truly represents and serves our whole community.
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