A Yelp executive explains how the company is driving social change

  • Yelp executive Miriam Warren helped the company develop its products supporting LGBTQ rights.
  • The diversity director has also become an outspoken leader on racial justice and abortion.
  • This article is part of the “Financing a Sustainable Future” series exploring how companies are taking action to finance and set their own sustainability goals.

Over the past year, Yelp has been firmly committed to LGBTQ rights. In May 2021, the tech company unveiled a feature for LGBTQ-owned businesses to identify themselves, making it easier for consumers to find them.

And in March 2022, Miriam Warren, head of diversity at Yelp, publicly denounced anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ bills in Florida and Texas. For a month, the company also “double-matched,” or matched and then donated a second time, donations from its 4,400 employees to LGBTQ nonprofits.

Founded in 2004, Yelp functions as a platform for users to connect and review local businesses. The focus on the diversity of its products, services and public commentary over the past few years – Warren has also publicly supported access to abortion in the United States, for example – could provide a roadmap for other business leaders, showing how product innovation can facilitate users to support underrepresented groups in their communities.

In 2018, Yelp added an “Open to All” attribute that businesses could add to their Business Profiles on their own. The attribute tells Yelp consumers who serve all customers regardless of sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, religion, disability, identity gender or gender expression. Since the rollout, more than 635,000 businesses have added the attribute and made the “Open to All” pledge, a promise to serve all customers with respect, regardless of difference.

“When you look at who the economy really works for and who it doesn’t, it becomes all the more obvious that there are companies that can influence that, who can drive traffic to women-owned businesses, to Asian-owned businesses, etc. on,” Warren said. “These businesses really should because that’s what consumers are looking for.”

Determine what interests your community

A person carries a rainbow umbrella at Miami Beach Pride.

Yelp’s leadership team saw how much their employees and consumers cared about LGBTQ rights, so they doubled down on their product offerings and public statements on the issue.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

From employee surveys and conversations in employee resource groups, Yelp knew trans rights were an important issue for the company, Warren said.

In 2017, Yelp joined 52 other companies in signing an amicus brief supporting 17-year-old transgender student Gavin Grimm, who was barred from using a men’s restroom at a Virginia high school. In 2021, the school district agreed to settle the case and will pay Grimm $1.3 million. Also in 2017, Yelp began working with businesses to identify consumer-neutral bathrooms, and the company made its bathrooms at its San Francisco headquarters neutral.

“The people affected by anti-trans laws are mostly young people. These people represent our friends, our colleagues, our consumers, the people who pay for advertising on Yelp,” Warren said. “That’s a really big reason why we need to take a stand on this and many other issues.”

Warren, who has been with Yelp since 2007, added that the trend of speaking out on issues important to stakeholders is here to stay.

“It’s something you won’t see going away, especially for a younger population of consumers who are constantly looking at company and company values,” she added.

Make small changes and build on success

A sign calls for justice for George Floyd as the march of several thousand heads towards downtown Portland, OR on June 3, 2020. The protest was organized to voice concerns over police brutality at the following the recent death of George Floyd, an African American from Minnesota, who died in police custody on May 25, 2020.

Yelp saw the number of people searching for black-owned businesses increase after the murder of George Floyd.

Diego Diaz/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In the weeks following the May 2020 murder of George Floyd, Yelp saw searches for black-owned businesses skyrocket on its platform.

So in June, the company added a feature for black-owned businesses to identify themselves so consumers can find them more easily. Additionally, Yelp launched a campaign to generate more business with black-owned businesses. The company also announced that it would match employee donations to nonprofits that support racial justice.

“People really want to vote with their dollars,” Warren said.

Also in 2020, the tech company announced it would transfer $10 million of its own cash to black-owned financial institutions that specialize in lending to historically marginalized communities.

“I’m especially excited that Yelp is continuing to double down on a lot of the things we’ve already done,” she said. “We still have a lot of work to do in partnering with these communities, deepening our relationships with these companies, and really elevating them in different ways.”


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