In June and July, as Black Lives Matter activism surged around the country, Warby Parker pledged to do better as a company to foster diversity, equity, and inclusivity--including increasing Black representation within its leadership and workforce. It also detailed a financial commitment of more than $1 million to combat systemic racism.
Now with Election Day approaching, Warby Parker's co-founder and co-chief executive Dave Gilboa says it's no time for leaders to stay silent about significant issues. "We can't rely on the government or nonprofits to create change in this country," says Gilboa, who will be speaking at the Inc. 5000 Vision Conference on October 21 about corporate activism, developing an antiracist workplace, and empowering employees to make a difference. "Businesses have an opportunity and responsibility to be active participants on issues that are important to America, and are important to employees."
While Warby Parker isn't endorsing candidates, the company is giving employees two days of paid time off to volunteer as they see fit--and encouraging them to sign up as poll workers, or to do phone banking for get-out-the-vote efforts. Internally, it's made sure employees--from the time they are onboarded--have resources to register to vote, check their registration, and receive mail-in ballots, especially those who have been displaced or relocated during the pandemic.
Beyond its own almost 3,000 employees, Warby Parker has reached out to its contractors and partners to encourage them to participate in civic efforts as well. It has also educated its retail employees to talk to customers about voting.
Gilboa says while Warby Parker is avoiding taking a partisan stance on politics, it is dismayed that one out of five American citizens who are eligible to vote are not registered, and that Black and Hispanic communities "tend to face more challenges in getting the opportunity to vote." In June, Warby Parker reported that 15 percent of its workforce identified as Black; 47 percent as people of color.
And in aim of increasing voter turnout, it has linked with organizations including Unilever, Harry's, and Sweetgreen to "try to create real change and influence government policy, and make sure that the voice of business is heard and that we're able to have impact by joining together around this important issue."