True diversity is good for business and the economy; it improves corporate performance, encourages innovation, drives growth, and enhances employee engagement. It’s something that was at the forefront of my mind when building the AHLOT team and it’s proven to be more important now than ever. This is a pivotal moment in time and we all must work together to bring an end to systemic oppression and the continued dehumanization of BIPOC bodies.
We believe that a healing plant deserves a healing industry, and as a cannabis company we aim to eliminate racism within our community and educate others, but this first has to start from within. As such, we’d like to take this moment to officially formalize and make an accountable commitment to our community.
I, along with my fellow co-workers, commit to implementing the following BlackNorth Initiative Pledge.
1. We will increase our efforts to make our workplaces trusting places to have complex, and sometimes difficult conversations about anti-Black systemic racism and ensure that no barriers exist to prevent Black employees from advancing within the company.
We will create and maintain an environment that fosters open dialogue, including listening forums where our people feel comfortable to gain greater awareness of each other’s experiences and perspectives. By encouraging an ongoing dialogue and not tolerating any incongruence with these values of openness, we are building trust, encouraging compassion and open-mindedness, and reinforcing our commitment to a culture of inclusivity
2. We will implement or expand unconscious bias and anti-racism education within our team and across our community.
We all have unconscious biases—that is human nature. Unconscious bias education enables individuals to begin recognizing, acknowledging, and therefore minimizing any potential blind spots they might have. We will commit to rolling out and/or expanding education that addresses unconscious bias and anti-Black systemic racism within our companies and make non-proprietary unconscious bias education modules available to others free of charge.
3. We will share best—and unsuccessful—practices around true diversity and inclusion.
We know that many companies are still developing programs and initiatives around true diversity and inclusion. We commit to helping them evolve and enhance their current diversity strategies and encourage them, in turn, to share their successes and challenges with others.
4. We will create and share strategic inclusion and diversity plans with our board of directors.
We will establish at least one diversity leadership council and make efforts to ensure these groups include diverse representation, including senior Black leaders, within our organization. The diversity leadership council will work with the CEO who will be accountable to our board of directors (or equivalent governing bodies) through the development and evaluation of concrete, strategic action plans to prioritize and drive accountability around diversity and inclusion, including as it relates to Black employees. We recognize that boards and CEOs play an important role in driving action together to cultivate inclusive cultures and talent.
5. We will use our resources to work with members of the Black community.
Through the BlackNorth Initiative we will ensure that Black communities across Canada are aware of opportunities of employment within our organization and that employment opportunities are set aside for Black people including committing to specific hiring goals of at least 5% within our student workforce from the Black community. Through the BlackNorth Initiative we will invest at least 3% of corporate donations and sponsorships to promote investment and create economic opportunities in the Black community, both by 2025. We also recognize the economic power of the company and the ability to influence broader change by encouraging diversity and the representation of Black people amongst our suppliers and those we choose to do business with.
6. We will engage Canada’s corporate governance framework.
The aim of the BlackNorth Initiative is to include both board Chairs and CEOs to foster inclusiveness for Black leaders at the board level, as well as at senior management and executive levels. We are building a strong foundation of business leaders who are committed to meaningful, sustainable inclusion of Black people in business leadership. Our goal is to build a pipeline so there can be representation from the Black community on the Board of Directors and in our C-suite. In addition, as a numeric goal provides real impetus for change, we have made a goal of, at a minimum, 3.5% of executive and board roles based in Canada being held by Black leaders by 2025.
7. We will create the conditions for success.
As in all business ventures, ‘what gets measured gets managed’, so it’s essential that we collect data on race and ethnicity, including from Black employees, to understand where we have gaps and when we are making progress. We will work through the BlackNorth Initiative to attract and retain talent from the Black community, and in partnership with our organization’s governance committee, commit to developing and advancing Black people within our organizations to ensure a pipeline of talent as we build inclusive leadership teams that are representative of the communities we serve. We will set inclusive talent management goals and include them in senior executives’ annual performance scorecards
*Please note that, due to our company size, some of these success metrics are not applicable to AHLOT. We have reviewed the points with the BNI team and have approval to move forward with the Pledge in a way that is more reflective of our resources and team size.
We recognize that these commitments are not the complete answer, but we believe they are important, concrete steps toward building more truly diverse and inclusive workplaces. In addition to this commitment, we’re pleased to announce a new initiative that we’re kicking off: This year, we’ll be donating 10% of all revenue earned from our storage and accessories e-commerce sales to The BlackNorth Initiative.
The cannabis industry, while legalized, still has a lot of work to do on ending systemic racism and injustice that the BIPOC communities have experienced and still experience to this day. While we’re still a relatively small team, we’re eager to take the steps necessary to honour this commitment.
Stay tuned and keep us accountable!
Greg Pantelic, CEO
Visit https://blacknorth.ca/the-pledge/ to learn more about the Black North Pledge.