Firms touting questionable sustainability credentials can reap financial benefits but are potentially undermining genuine First Nations and reconciliation advancements….
And just as the environmental movement has seen its share of “greenwashing,” the push for First Nations rights and reconciliation has given rise to a new concern: “blakwashing.”
What is Blakwashing?
Blakwashing refers to the act of companies falsely or superficially showcasing support for First Nations causes, rights or culture to gain a favourable public image or financial benefits.
And this deceptive practice not only misleads consumers but also undermines genuine efforts towards First Nations advancements and reconciliation.
The Allure of Blakwashing
The reasons behind blakwashing are manifold. For some companies, it’s a way to tap into a growing market of socially conscious consumers. For others, it’s a means to deflect from other controversial practices or to rebrand in the face of public scrutiny.
Regardless of the motive, the outcome is the same: genuine First Nations causes are overshadowed by government or corporate interests.
How to Spot Blakwashing
In an era where corporate social responsibility is more than just a buzzword, companies are keen to align themselves with causes that resonate with their audience but not all of these alignments are genuine. Here’s an expanded guide on spotting ‘blakwashing’ with illustrative examples:
- Description: Companies might make sweeping statements about supporting First Nations causes but fail to detail how they plan to do so.
- Example: A clothing brand suddenly launches a “First Nations Inspired” line and claims a portion of the proceeds will support Indigenous communities. However, they don’t specify which communities, how much money, or in what manner the funds will be used.
- How to: Scrutinise the company’s claims. Are they providing specifics about their initiatives, or are they merely using buzzwords? Genuine commitment is often accompanied by clear, actionable steps and transparency in execution.
Check for Partnerships
- Description: Authentic companies will often have established partnerships with recognised First Nations organisations or communities.
- Example: A tech firm claims to support Indigenous education but has no affiliations with any Indigenous educational institutions or programs.
- How to: Research the partnerships the company touts. Are these organisations recognised and respected within the First Nations community? Genuine collaborations are often publicised by both parties and have a track record of joint initiatives.
Research the Company’s History
- Description: A company’s past can provide insights into its genuine commitment to First Nations causes.
- Example: A food and beverage company starts a campaign promoting Indigenous farming practices. However, a quick search reveals that a few years ago, they faced controversies for land disputes with Indigenous communities.
- How to: Delve into the company’s past actions, affiliations, and any controversies. Has the company shown a consistent commitment to First Nations causes, or are there discrepancies in their actions and claims? News articles, community forums, and even social media can be valuable resources in this research.
The Way Forward
Blakwashing is not just a marketing concern; it’s a societal one. As consumers, it’s crucial to be informed, ask questions, and support companies that genuinely contribute to First Nations’ advancements and reconciliation.
And by recognising and calling out blakwashing, we can ensure that the path to reconciliation is paved with genuine intent and not just corporate interests.