News

Working Towards Becoming an Anti-Racist Company

Thursday, June 18th, 2020

To everyone at Joe,

Two weeks ago, I wrote you a letter voicing Joe’s support for the Black Lives Matter protests, with the promise to examine our company’s role in dismantling racism and confronting white privilege. Since then, we’ve begun to engage in deep reflection and discussion, and have carefully considered the thoughtful feedback so many of you have shared in response.

When I founded Joe, my vision was to create a welcoming space that celebrates great coffee and everyone who loves it. As I reflect on our history, I think of all the folks who have found safe haven in Joe, finding a sense of belonging that they were not able to find elsewhere. However, I realize that despite our best intentions, we took a passive approach to challenging racial inequity, thinking Joe was immune to bias. The reality is that racism is not always overt—it can manifest itself in subtle and equally harmful ways, and we acknowledge our own complicity in perpetuating institutional racism.

It’s time for us to dig deep, confront our historical policies and behaviors, and work to actively design our company systems and processes to champion racial equity. To that end, I want to share the early beginnings of how we’re approaching this work.

Listening & Education:

Before we can take meaningful steps towards long lasting change, we need to first look inward, listen, and learn. This means reckoning with past harms, understanding the lived experiences of folks in our community, and confronting how bias affects us as individuals and in our business operations. We respect that the onus is on us to educate ourselves, but want you to know that we are listening, and we are committed to holding space for challenging conversations. This is work that we must do, as an employer, to genuinely be in service of our staff.

Here’s where we are starting:

  • In an effort to respect the boundaries of our staff while also providing a platform to participate, we have created an anonymous submission form. This form can be used to share experiences that have made folks feel discriminated, marginalized or othered in the workplace, ideas for policy change or new practices to implement, or general feedback. We understand it is unfair to rely on our most affected staff to tell us how to change and that any insight into those experiences is a gift, but we also feel it is necessary to give an outlet for those who want to share.
  • Create a repository of anti-racist educational resources and facilitate dialogue
  • Require training on unconscious bias for all employees
  • Address coffee’s roots in colonialism and slavery through our education program

Policy:

We can’t create a welcoming place for our BIPOC employees to grow professionally without taking a critical look at our internal policies. Although policy reform will surely be a continuing conversation, we will immediately work on:

  • Fully auditing our employee handbook and company policies with an anti-bias lens
  • Reviewing our in-store safety, conflict resolution, and escalation procedures

Recruiting & Hiring Efforts

We have always cherished diversity on many levels at Joe, and yet we have much more work to do, especially when it comes to diversity in middle and upper management. Black and Brown folks are significantly underrepresented in our industry and the specialty coffee community has not done enough to change this. We believe in making coffee more approachable to everyone, and we will play an active role in building better representation by:

  • Connecting with more diverse candidate pools and partnering with community organizations dedicated to the professional development of BIPOC
  • Examining our hiring practices and investigating blind hiring methods where ethnic/gender/age/class signifiers are omitted from resumes
  • Training interviewers to erase potential bias

Marketing

We spend a lot of time thinking about inequities throughout the coffee supply chain and finding ways to communicate these complexities to our staff and customers, often focusing on stories about our current producer partners in our marketing. However, coffee has a history of colonialism and inextricable links to the slave trade—these less “palatable” parts of history often don’t make it into the narrative. We understand that it is our duty to tell the full story, and we intend to engage with these truths better in our storytelling.

Moving Forward & Staying Accountable

In January, we established a cross-departmental culture working group called the Joe Cultural Advocacy Team (J-CAT). The purpose of this group was to pave the way for conversations about how Joe, as we grow, can be a better employer for all Joeys. Because COVID-19 forced us to reduce our business to a skeleton crew, many of the members of this team were temporarily laid off. In an effort to immediately begin building a roadmap for change in the interim, we formed an anti-racism task force in the week following our initial statement. This committee will be responsible for overseeing this work until we are able to partner with J-CAT again to carry the work forward. Until then, we intend to meet regularly to advance discussions, establish goals, and build timelines.

 

Clearly, there is a lot of work ahead. Our next steps may include missteps, but we won’t let up. I am hopeful that with the help of the entire Joe family, we will become a truly anti-racist organization, an embodiment of the original vision for Joe Coffee.

Jonathan