We’ve previously talked about our “Belonging Framework” on our Instagram page and in our newsletter but in this post we’d like to share the backstory of the framework with you. To help you understand what drove us to create it, but more importantly to encourage and (hopefully) inspire other businesses to do the same. So, make yourself a cuppa, sit down in a comfortable position and get ready for the ride!
As a business, we have always tried to do things the better way - for people, the planet and animals. This ethos has sat at the core of the business and guided all key decisions since its inception. But how did we decide what the better way was? Like anything, what’s “better” is often shaped by privilege, biases and knowledge (or lack thereof). When the Black Lives Matter movement was re-ignited in June, it was a real wake up call for us. If we wanted to do things the better way for people, then surely this meant all people? And if so, obviously we couldn’t stay silent about what was (and still is) going on. We had to make our stance about racism and the Black Lives Matter movement totally clear. With 50% of our team being people of colour, we had spoken about racism internally but had never felt we should speak about it publicly. How wrong we were!
On the 1st of June we wrote an Instagram post about Black Lives Matter, which we elaborated on more in our newsletter that month. A bit later on, we published a blog post “Black Lives Matter: 5 ways to take action against racism”. However, we knew that a couple of posts wasn’t nearly enough and that we needed to put in some serious thought and (oftentimes uncomfortable) work to ensure that we as individuals and as a company were truly being anti-racist. So, we started working on an “Anti-racism policy” and decided to start having regular calls with the team where we discuss racism, its impacts and how we as individuals and as a company could do better.
Photo by Amer Mughawish on Unsplash
We very quickly realised that: 1. To do this ourselves would only perpetuate our own experiences and biases, so we needed the help of a professional diversity and inclusivity consultant; 2. We shouldn’t just focus on race but ensure that our ‘policy’ and monthly calls* encompassed all aspects of inclusivity as well. Luckily, Elin, our Co-Founder and Head of Marketing, heard about the wonderful Vanessa Belleau, the founder of High Fifteen, through the Found & Flourish network. Vanessa introduced us to the wonderful concept of belonging and helped us transform our “Anti-racism policy” into a compelling “Belonging Framework” that guides us in creating a workplace and a business where everyone feels seen, respected and heard, where they can flourish, thrive and be themselves. According to Vernā Myers: ‘Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance’. And according to Vanessa Belleau: ‘Belonging is felt when the DJ plays your favourite music and you feel that you can dance freely like nobody’s watching.’ How beautiful is that?
The purpose of the "Belonging Framework" is to help us ensure that everyone involved with Better Nature feels included, seen and celebrated, regardless of their age, disability, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, education, mental health, physical appearance, socio-economic status, language skills, marriage status, pregnancy and neurotypicality. This covers us as co-founders and team members, the people we hire, the people who buy our products, the people we partner with and the people we aim to create a better world for. It all starts with us as individuals (un)learning and reflecting on our actions and biases, as well as collectively as a business.
Vanessa was tremendously helpful in shaping our “Belonging Framework” and ensuring that we covered all bases. It all kicked off with a couple of video calls with Vanessa, after which we created the first version of the framework and sent it over to her for a review. We did a couple of iterations and once we were all happy with the “Belonging Framework” it was presented to the whole team for them to comment on. The framework took plenty of time, energy and thought to finalise, but we’re so pleased with the outcome and excited for the impact it will have on the business. You can find a summary of the framework here. Side note: We’re not perfect and neither is our framework but we’ve put a lot of thought and effort into it trying to ensure it’s as comprehensive as possible. However, we’ll be re-evaluating it annually so that we can always keep improving and evolving.
Vanessa also ran a very eye-opening and thought-provoking unconscious bias training for the whole team, which left everyone feeling very humbled and with a deep sense of responsibility. These conversations can (rightly) be tough, but our team couldn’t stop raving about Vanessa and how much they learnt and valued the experience - which is a huge testament to Vanessa! She’s so professional, upfront and uncompromising, and radiates such amazing energy and positivity that it’s genuinely impossible not to enjoy working with her. We’d 100% recommend our fellow businesses to work with Vanessa (hint hint, nudge nudge)!
We know that now comes the hard part - actually implementing the framework and making sure we all stick to it. We’re only in the first few months, but we can genuinely say that writing this framework has changed so much already. It’s changed the way we view our business, its role in this world, our understanding and appreciation for fellow team members and the wider community. There is still plenty more to do and learn, but seeing the whole team come together to do things the better way for all people has been truly inspiring. We couldn’t recommend doing this enough!
* Thus far we’ve discussed the following topics on our team calls: The industrial prison complex, the racial wealth gap, unconscious gender bias & gender equality, love languages, and mental health in a capitalist society. Next time we’ll be discussing body positivity/fat acceptance. The topics are nominated by team members and before each call we are given some “homework” to do (during work hours), assigned by the person who nominated the topic. The homework can include, for example, listening to a specific podcast episode or reading relevant articles.