Let Your Customers Know You’re Open to All

September 3, 2019

As a nation, we decided long ago that when a business opens its doors to the public, it should be open to everyone on the same terms. But shockingly, many Americans still can’t be sure they will be treated equally when they seek goods or services from businesses in their local communities. And with good reason. Far too often, we still hear stories of discrimination, such as people of color facing abuse and violence in a diner, a gay couple being kicked out of an Uber car, Muslim women ordered to leave a café, or people with disabilities being harassed in a restaurant.

But it’s not about isolated incidents. It’s about our current climate. Hate crimes are up. School bullying is up. People want to know where they will be safe and welcome and respected.

We all understand the problem, but Open to All is working towards a solution. Open to All, a social impact campaign, is very simple. It’s a public declaration that a business will treat people fairly—and a promise that if someone isn’t treated fairly (because businesses can’t always control 100% of the people who work for them), that the business will take that seriously.

Open to All also allows businesses to have conversations with their staff and employees about company values so that incidents of discrimination are less likely to occur. Open to All includes a coalition of over 200 nonprofits including groups like the NAACP, Leadership Conference, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, MALDEF, Out & Equal, Muslim Advocates, Anti-Defamation League, and others—not to mention groups like the national LGBT, Hispanic and Black chambers of commerce. These nonprofits are leading national voices for diversity and inclusion.

That’s why nearly 5,000 leading businesses have joined together to declare that they are Open to All regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, immigration status, religion or disability. More and more businesses large and small are joining leaders like Gap Inc., Old Navy, Michaels Companies craft stores, Marriott International Inc., Levi Strauss & Company, Lyft, Airbnb, and Yelp by signing the Open to All Business Pledge and, for businesses with brick and mortar locations, placing Open to All window clings in public facing windows. Open to All’s round blue stickers are popping up in storefronts across North America, a clear message to customers: no one should be turned away from a business simply because of who they are.

Consumers are taking notice. According to Edelman’s 2018 Earned Brand Study, 64% of consumers choose, switch, avoid, or boycott a brand based on its stand on societal issues. Kantar’s 2018 ‘Purpose 2020’ Report found that nearly two-thirds of millennials and Gen Z express a preference for brands that have a point of view and stand for something. Finally, Unilever Consumer Study reported that 33% of consumers are now choosing to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good. 

“We're dedicated to making Michaels a fun and supportive place to work, as well as a great place to shop,” said Holly Shaskey-Platek, senior vice president of human resources for the Michaels Companies. “Whether it’s how we treat our team members or how we serve our customers, we know that our business and communities are stronger when we are united.” 

“One thing is certain, we will never stop believing that Old Navy can be a place where customers and communities feel a sense of belonging — and do our best to make that so,” said Old Navy President & CEO Sonia Syngal. “Our doors are open for everyone, and also open for ideas, open for love, open for differences, open for dialogue, and open for change.”

This is a time of uncertainty and deep divisions, but also promise,​ because businesses can choose to lead and take a stand for fairness and unity. Corporate leaders have the power as well as the economic and human imperative to support nondiscrimination and to be a voice for inclusion in these turbulent times.

That’s not only good for America, it’s good for business.