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The North Face Offers Discount to UK Customers Who Complete Racial Inclusion Course

The North Face sign on building

The North Face, an outdoor clothing and accessories retailer, is offering a 20 percent discount to shoppers in the U.K. who complete an online training course on “racial inclusion and allyship.”

The hourlong course, “Allyship in the Outdoors,” is designed to “foster a deeper understanding of the unique challenges that people of color face when accessing the outdoors,” according to the company’s website. The training also highlights the “perspective of race and racism” in four interactive modules.

“At The North Face, we believe in the power of exploration,” the company’s website stated. “As individuals, professionals and companies who share a love for the outdoors and exploration, we are also responsible for supporting spaces where everyone feels like they belong.”

The course educates people and employers in the U.K. on how to handle accusations of being “too woke” on social media, which includes removing hurtful comments and responding to comments with calm authority consistent with organizational policy.

Customers who live in North America can take the course but are not eligible to receive the discount. The course specifically targets diversity issues in Europe but does mention racial injustices that have occurred in the U.S.

Janet Harvey, the CEO of inviteCHANGE, a coaching and human development organization in Freeland, Wash., said she didn’t understand why The North Face didn’t mention institutional and systemic racism in the U.S.

“We could assign The North Face high marks that evidence congruence between espoused policy and public, visible action,” she said. “Unfortunately, carving out an exception for North American consumers and outdoor industry leaders undermines the sense of belonging for any person, globally, when exploring outside.”

The North Face did not respond to SHRM Online’s request for comment.

‘A Commitment to Empathy’

Nicole Price, an empathy and leadership coach in Kansas City, Mo., said The North Face’s course exemplifies the urgent need for education that confronts racial disparities in outdoor access.

“Systemic issues, such as the urban heat island effect disproportionately impacting Black communities, highlight why inclusive awareness and action are crucial,” she said. “This course is a step towards empathetic understanding and systemic change.”

Many companies, particularly in the U.S., launched or enhanced their inclusion, equity and diversity (IE&D) programs in 2020. But these efforts have been met with heavy backlash in recent months from conservative groups who believe IE&D is racist.

[SHRM Online: Elon Musk Calls DEI ‘Another Word for Racism.’ Workplace Experts Say He’s Wrong]

The North Face has received similar criticism after news of the course made headlines. However, Price said this backlash doesn’t consider the company’s effort to foster empathy and awareness about the outdoor challenges faced by people of color.

“At the heart of The North Face’s efforts is a commitment to empathy, showcasing how businesses can lead in educating about and addressing systemic inequalities,” she said. “By promoting a deeper understanding of the unique barriers to outdoor access, they pave the way for more empathetic and inclusive outdoor spaces.”

How to Handle IE&D Backlash

A “tarnished brand” due to criticism of IE&D efforts can negatively impact revenue and customer retention, Harvey noted. Anheuser-Busch, notably, saw their sales dwindle and stock shares downgrade after partnering with a transgender activist in 2023.

When responding to backlash to IE&D efforts occur, Harvey suggested that companies exercise “compassionate honesty.”

“When leaders justify their actions by saying that others misunderstood their intention, it feels like pouring salt into an open wound,” she said. “Declaring one’s apology for any harm and inviting a space of learning to address the insult creates a win-win path.”

A joint study by SHRM and Boston College revealed that 64 percent of organizations believe IE&D is still important, yet 62 percent have allocated little to no resources into these efforts despite many of their employees having experienced racial bias in the previous two years.

Price explained that it is essential for organizations to recognize how historical injustices, such as racial discrimination, continue to limit the individual potential and access to spaces for communities of color, underscoring the need for empathetic action.

“Elevating empathy in our approach to environmental justice ensures we not only recognize but actively work to rectify the disparities that hinder communities of color from experiencing the outdoors fully,” she said.

Harvey added that companies must “think beyond acronyms” and understand that the purpose of IE&D efforts is to disrupt biases “long enough to consider how their actions and words influence another’s well-being and sense of belonging.

“Recognize that no matter where a person resides on the planet or their life circumstances, they have a right to dignity,” she said. “Acknowledge the different starting points, bring those left behind to a common starting place with others, and prioritize equity by being inclusive to hear and incorporate all voices in our solutions.”


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