Taking action for Antiracism, Diversity and Inclusion

Time for action

The challenge, as so many in the Black community have rightly pointed out now and many times in the past is that we must sustain action indefinitely. Beyond the time when the headlines and hashtags are gone. To continue pushing for change and enacting change.

We're confident that the best way to sustain action is to have a concrete plan of actions you're committed to. Some that can be done immediately but many that stay with you into the future, indefinitely. We want to outline how we're taking action as a company.

We're an all-white, all-male and privileged team. We don't face systemic and institutionalised racism. But people, like the Black community, face this daily. We want to help try to solve this. We must use our privilege to fight racism, improve diversity and foster inclusion.

If you’re an early-stage startup with little to no diversity, you are in trouble and need to fix it fast. (Project Include)

So, we must start by openly acknowledging that we are part of the problem. This may be a sobering realisation for many of us who love Black culture, have never uttered a racist remark, have non-white friends or consider ourselves to be one of the good ones. We've come to realise that "in a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be antiracist" (Angela Davis). Racism is a problem for all us and must be solved by all of us through sustained action.

We must now start to be part of the solution. To start being an antiracist company. As Willie Jackson put it, we must be an "accomplice" and not just an ally.

Why do we need to publicise our actions?

This is a fair question as undoubtedly many companies and individuals will be vocal in the short term, but no meaningful action may follow. As Holiday Phillips describes, "Performative Allyship can be deadly". This is showing you care simply for the purpose of showing you care.

Ever since we started our company, transparency has been very important. You can look through all our previous blog posts to see how much we like to share about how the business is doing. So we'll continue to be as transparent when it comes to all our efforts in this space.

So, it's important we answer this question. Simply put, beyond transparency, we're speaking out publicly about what we're doing because we want it to help drive action within our community and within other companies in our industry.

Who are we supporting?

Another important question we had to answer was: do we want these actions to impact diversity and inclusion more broadly, across race, gender and ethnicity. Or, are we focusing our support on a specific underrepresented and marginalised group, such as the Black community. Regardless of our actions, supporting one race, gender or ethnicity doesn't mean you don't care about the others.

Some of our actions below are going to be very focused on antiracism and Black communities because within the travel and tech industries they are significantly underrepresented and marginalised because of systemic and institutionalised racism. And recent events, like the murder of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor show us again just how systemic and pervasive racism is towards Black people in our wider society.

Our longer-term actions, policies and ambitions will also be supportive of a broader goal to build an antiracist, diverse and inclusive company. A company that actively promotes and supports diversity and inclusion across ethnicity but also gender, disability and sexual orientation.

The travel and tech industries

We feel that to maximise our impact, we need to utilise our experience, knowledge and position to the best of our ability. For Pluto, that means taking action in the context of travel. Some of our actions will also focus on tech, as although we are a travel business first, we are also a tech business.

We wanted to understand how our industries deal with racism, diversity and inclusion, both right now in response to current events, but more importantly how seriously the underlying organisation takes it.

Travel, as we continually hear from our customers, is about exploring and learning about new cultures. You might expect then, that travel is one of the most ethnically diverse and inclusive industries. It's not.

Here are some things we found:

  • In a diversity and inclusion assessment from PWC, they showed that "travel is a long way behind the par rating for other industries"
  • For context on some of the figures below, 13.8% of the are from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background. (UK: Diversity UK)
  • At Travel Industry conferences, largely attended by employees of travel companies, "non-white attendees usually number fewer than 5%" (UK: PWC)
  • "1 in 33 (3%) of leaders in the hospitality, travel and leisure sector are from a Black, Asian, or minority ethnic background" (UK: MBS Group)
  • At a Board level, "ethnic diversity is even lower at just 1.8%" (UK: MBS Group)
  • And in tech, Black workers make up 1-2% of the workforce at several prominent tech companies e.g. Facebook (3%), Google (2%) (US: Fortune)
  • We appreciate that many travel companies are under huge pressure from the impact of Coronavirus right now, but we don't think it justifies their silence. Looking at the social media accounts of some UK based airlines like British Airways, easyJet, Virgin Atlantic, Ryanair and Jet2, it's a shame they haven't used their platforms for sharing messages and useful resources.

Unfortunately, travel as an industry is lagging significantly behind others. And even these other industries have so much more to do. So the fact that travel, which thrives off helping people to explore different cultures and ethnicities, is a long way behind, is even more upsetting.

Actions we're taking

We've written a set of actions we're committing to as a company. Some of these will be done in the short term. But, some are much deeper and will take much longer, with the aim of affecting the business long into our future, acting as principles and guidelines to ensure we're making the right decisions.

We explored all the different areas of our business to come up these and they all require a commitment from everyone at Pluto. The objective of these actions is simply to use our privilege to combat systemic and institutionalised racism and to improve diversity and inclusion in our industries.

Here's a summary of our 10 actions:

  1. Update our company values to ensure that diversity and inclusion are at the heart of every decision
  2. Establishing diversity and inclusion as a business priority, consistently being part of our quarterly business objectives
  3. Ensure we have a diverse team through affirmative action, diversity targets for hiring and candidates and also setting a goal for the end of 2021
  4. Ensure our marketing and products enable, promote and encourage diversity and inclusion
  5. Create an environment for an inclusive culture with zero tolerance towards racism
  6. Work with companies that actively support diversity, inclusion and the Black community
  7. Provide our team with time and money for education on racism and antiracism
  8. Donate to two organisations that are fighting racism
  9. Report on our progress to the public, our customers, investors and employees
  10. Encourage other companies to take action by signing our 'Pledge for Antiracism, Diversity & Inclusion'

You can read all the details behind these actions here.

We do understand that we're a small team and travel is a huge industry, but we'd rather have a go at changing something, than doing nothing. This is also why action #10 is so important, because the biggest impact we can probably have is by encouraging other companies to also take action. Please share this with someone who is running a business and would find this useful. Click to quickly share by email, Twitter or WhatsApp.

Thank you for reading this. From the bottom of our hearts, we hope this inspires you to also take action. Please share this if you think this will help another company to take action.

Finally, we welcome our community to tell us what else we can be doing. What could we do better? Could some of our actions actually be harmful? We're at the start of this and we want to learn as much as we can. Please always feel like you can tell us exactly what you think.

Alex and the Pluto team



The two co-founders of Pluto, Alex & Harry.