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USA: Company executives speak out against racism following the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor & Tony McDade by police

On 25 May 2020, white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pinned George Floyd to the ground, keeping his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, ultimately killing him. Three additional officers were involved. All four officers have been fired by the Minneapolis police department and Derek Chauvin has been charged with murder and manslaughter. 

The killing of George Floyd was preceded by the killing of 26-year-old African-American emergency room technician Breonna Taylor in Kentucky by police in her own home and of Tony McDade, a Black trans man, in Florida. The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade by police are part of a larger pattern of police brutality against Black Americans and in the majority of cases, the perpetrators have not been held accountable. Despite only making up 13 percent of the US population, Black Americans are two-and-a-half times as likely as white Americans to be killed by the police. (NPR's Code Switch has created this (non-comprehensive) list of the names of Black people killed in the US by police since 2014.)

Protests against systemic racism and police brutality against Black people and in support of justice, accountability, and equity have spread across the United States. In addition, over 600 organisations signed on to a letter requesting a Special Session of the Human Rights Council on police violence in the US.

Executives at companies such as Citi, Netflix, Nike, Twitter and others made statements against racism and some have expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement. More information about these statements and actions by companies is below.

In addition, Sherrell Dorsey at The Plug is curating a list of statements by tech companies against racism; the full list is available here and an infographic is here. Guns Down America is also tracking company statements and investments here. Sharon Chuter, founder and CEO of UOMA Beauty, has launched the "Pull up or Shut Up" campaignwhich urges brands to share the number of black employees they have working in their companies and in leadership.

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Article
10 July 2020

FSG, PolicyLink & JUST Capital release blueprint for companies' role in achieving racial equity; incl. paying a living wage & expanding worker power

Author: Greg Hills, Lakshmi Iyer, Michael McAfee, Josh Kirschenbaum & Martin Whittaker, JUST Capital

"As CEOs face a legacy-defining moment, we are providing a blueprint for their role in achieving racial equity," 7 July 2020

Corporate leaders have a particularly powerful role to play in replacing racist structures, many of which have benefited those at the top, with policies that bring us closer to racial equity... America’s current economic structures and institutions are simply incompatible with a commitment to Black lives and racial justice. Inequality is baked deep into our current capitalist society which has “produced extreme wealth for owners and daily insecurity for workers,” according to Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation.

... [W]e are calling on corporations to be greater than their statements... The blueprint maps to the public’s stated priorities for corporate leadership... Companies can:

  • ... Conduct a pay equity audit across all positions and levels by race, ethnicity, and gender; identify and correct any pay gaps; and release the results publicly
  • ... Pay living wages to employees at all levels
  • ... Extend benefits – paid sick, family, and medical leave; retirement savings vehicles; health insurance; and regular scheduling, among others – to all employees regardless of part-time status
  • ... Allow workers to organize and share their concerns and ideas with management in a respectful and meaningful way
  • ... End the use of mandatory arbitration agreements
  • ... Create grievance mechanisms for employees to report instances of discrimination

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Article
30 June 2020

Commentary: These are the corporate responses to the George Floyd protests that stand out

Author: Richard Feloni & Yusuf George, JUST Capital

This has been the first time that companies have embraced the Black Lives Matter movement en masse... A survey from JUST found that the large majority of Americans either somewhat favored or strongly favored CEOs responding to the protests with a statement about ending police violence (84%), promoting peaceful protest (84%), elevating diversity and inclusion in the workplace (78%), condemning racial inequity (75%), and condemning police killings of unarmed Black people (73%)... Campaign Zero cofounder DeRay Mckesson...[said] that while he found some businesses’ responses to the Floyd protests “lazy” and wanted to see lasting action, he said that some of these statements have helped take away the sensationalism around something he finds isn’t sensational, i.e. fighting against systemic racism and for police reform.

... Bank of America announced a $1 billion, four-year commitment to strengthen economic opportunities in communities of color... PepsiCo also announced a five-year, $400 million initiative that includes the goal of increasing Black managerial representation by 30% and more than doubling business with Black-owned suppliers... Ben and Jerry’s, a Unilever brand, committed itself to supporting the fight against systemic racism, including through the advocacy of a bill investigating slavery reparations and a bipartisan task force into police reform – on top of its continued financial and advocacy support of Black Lives Matter and criminal justice reform... Netflix announced on June 30th that the company would start putting 2% of its cash holdings into financial institutions and organizations to “directly support Black communities in the U.S.”

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Article
30 June 2020

USA: CEO statements on race & police misconduct are important, but now corporate political power is needed to pass legislation

Author: Aaron K. Chatterji & Michael W. Toffel, Harvard Business Review

"What CEOs Still Haven’t Said About Race and Policing", 18 Jun 2020

Many CEOs have spoken out...to share their thoughts on race and police misconduct in America. What would have been extraordinary... a few years ago — a corporate leader weighing in on a divisive political issue — has ... become expected... But CEOs have yet to advocate for policy solutions for police reform, focusing instead on their own... values. Corporate statements...have explicitly rejected racism and discrimination (Coca-Cola), condemned intolerance and harassment (Boeing), and recommitted... to build more... inclusive [corporate] culture (BlackRockIBM). Some...including Kenneth Frazier, [CEO] of Merck, and Mark Mason, [CEO] of Citi [drew] on their own experiences as Black men in America. Such statements can be important declarations of purpose and intent. However, [they] ... won’t be enough to reform... With... Congress unveiling new legislation... there are already calls to do more. [S]takeholders will call on them to deploy their political firepower...to pass contentious legislation... But how many CEOs will work to change the system by advocating for bodycam mandates, chokehold bans, [etc.] suggested by Campaign Zero8 Can’t Wait, or the Justice in Policing Act? Will they write supportive op-eds... - or align their political spending to pressure legislators to pass...bills? [C]corporations... already spend billions of dollars at all levels of government advocating... The challenge is that very few companies have a direct economic stake in the success of the movement... While a more inclusive and just society could drive long-term economic growth, this year’s profits will not rise or fall based on the success of police reform efforts. The only way companies will prioritize fighting... against systemic racism will be if their employees, customers, and investors demand it and hold them accountable... [Refers to Toyota]... 

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Article
17 June 2020

Minnesota Business Partnership urges lawmakers to adopt policing reforms that address police misconduct & increase accountability and transparency

Author: Minnesota Business Partnership

Members of the Minnesota Business Partnership believe that true reform must be focused against two critical objectives:

  • Prevention – implement needed policies and practices to significantly reduce the possibility of unacceptable police behavior in the future and strong disciplinary measures to ensure the discipline and removal of those who engage in such behavior
  • Justice – reform investigations, prosecutions and other measures to ensure that perpetrators of racist behavior are held accountable and that the behavior is not repeated

[M]embers of the Minnesota Business Partnership are committed to creating a state that embraces diversity and inclusion, and where all citizens are respected and heard. And we are committed to working with lawmakers and communities of color to reform policing practices to ensure that police receive the training necessary to prevent biased policing and inappropriate use of force and are held accountable... When lawmakers convene for a special session this week, we urge them to pass the reforms below...

  • Create an independent and specialized investigation unit within the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) with the authority to investigate all officer-involved shootings and uses of force that result in death or severe bodily injury...

[Refers to 3M, Allianz, Allina Health, Ameriprise Financial, Andersen Corporation, APiGroup, Apogee Enterprises, Best Buy, Bio-Techne, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Boston Scientific, Bremer Financial Corporation, C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Cambria, Cargill, Caribou Coffee Company, CenterPoint Energy, Children's Minnesota, CHS Inc., Comcast, CWT, Davis Family Holdings, Deloitte, Delta Air Lines, Delta Dental of Minnesota, Deluxe Corporation, Donaldson Company, Ecolab, EY, Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, Fairview Health Services, Federated Insurance, Frauenshuh Commercial Real Estate, Fredrikson & Byron P.A., General Mills, Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare, Great Clips, Great River Energy, H. B. Fuller, HealthPartners, IWCO Direct, Land O'Lakes, Lazard, Liberty Diversified International, Lunds & Byerlys, Mall of America, Mayo Clinic, Medtronic, North Memorial Health, nVent, Otter Tail Corporation, PwC, U.S. Bancorp, Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., and other companies]

Download the full document here

Article
16 June 2020

Commentary: Business leaders should take further action to address economic inequality for African Americans

Author: Michael Posner, Forbes

"Why we need more Black voices in the C-Suite," 11 June 2020

[O]ur society has failed to make concomitant progress in promoting economic opportunity for African Americans. In 2016, the net worth of a typical white family was $171,000 – nearly ten times greater than a typical Black family’s net worth of $17,150... Black families also suffer more in economic downturns... In recent days, a growing number of corporate leaders have issued public statements in support of reform. Some of these corporations have also announced charitable contributions to organizations that are on the front lines of the struggle for social and economic justice. Though laudable, these efforts are insufficient. There is still far too little introspection among business leaders about the glaring inequalities in the system they help direct from their positions of power.

... [W]e need more publicly available data on the nature and scope of inequality... Companies need to make public extensive data documenting their progress in promoting greater internal diversity and inclusion at the staff, executive, and board levels... [L]eaders in the investment sector and Fortune 500 companies need to take personal responsibility for changing the status quo... Today there are only four Black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies... Just 3.3 percent of executive or senior leadership positions in these companies are held by Black people... All employees and managers should be engaged in solving the inequality problem and promoting social accountability through transparency.

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Article
12 June 2020

Amazon halts police use of Rekognition; Access Now calls for creation of human rights team at the company

Author: Access Now

Amazon announced Wednesday that it would place a one-year moratorium on police use of its facial recognition software, Rekognition. The brief statement comes just two days after IBM announced in a letter to Congress that it would no longer offer general purpose facial recognition software... “The move by Amazon, as sudden as it appears, comes after years of pressure by civil society groups, investors, and other advocates calling on the company to stop selling Rekognition to law enforcement,” said Isedua Oribhabor, U.S. Policy Analyst at Access Now... During Amazon’s Annual General Meeting on May 27, shareholders voted on multiple proposals relating to Rekognition and other surveillance technology the company produces. Though the shareholder proposals did not pass, this move indicates that Amazon is responding to the concerns of its shareholders and of civil society... “Hitting the pause button is a small step in the right direction, but is not enough,” said Oribhabor. “At a minimum, Amazon must create a cross-functional human rights team and perform human rights impact assessments to truly evaluate the effects that its tech products have on... human rights.

... “Although strong regulation and safeguards can mitigate certain harms, we need to accept that certain uses of technology, such as biometric recognition systems that enable mass surveillance, are so incompatible with the protection of fundamental rights that these systems simply should not be used,” said Daniel Leufer, Mozilla Fellow at Access Now... Facial recognition and other surveillance software pose serious risks for human rights including freedom of assembly and privacy, some of which can be mitigated only by comprehensive and robust privacy and data protection laws in the United States.

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Article
12 June 2020

Amazon implements a one-year moratorium on police use of its facial recognition technology & supports federal regulation in the US

Author: Bobby Allyn, NPR

"Amazon halts police use of its facial recognition technology," 

Amazon announced on Wednesday a one-year moratorium on police use of its facial-recognition technology, yielding to pressure from police-reform advocates and civil rights groups... Microsoft President Brad Smith told The Washington Post during a livestream Thursday morning that his company has not been selling its technology to law enforcement. Smith said he has no plans to until there is a national law.

... Congressional Democrats are seeking to regulate the technology in sweeping police reform legislation... [t]he proposed bill would limit how much federal law enforcement officials could use facial recognition technology, including a ban on using the software with police body-worn cameras... Amazon officials say the company supports federal regulation for its algorithm-driven facial recognition software, known as Rekognition. "We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested," the company said in a statement.

... Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties director with the ACLU of Northern California, said a blanket ban on the technology is needed, but she welcomed Amazon's one-year pause, saying it shows that the company is "finally recognizing the dangers face recognition poses to black and brown communities and civil rights more broadly."... "Face recognition technology gives governments the unprecedented power to spy on us wherever we go. It fuels police abuse. This surveillance technology must be stopped."

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12 June 2020

Brands cut ties & owners resign after CrossFit CEO's offensive comments & refusal to speak out against racism

Author: Cheryl Wischhover, Vox

"Why CrossFit devotees leaving the brand behind is such a big deal," 12 June 2020

Since George Floyd’s killing at the hands of police and the global protests that have followed, companies across industries have found themselves in the middle of a reckoning. Consumers have demanded that brands take real action on racial inequality rather than just posting platitudes on Instagram. CrossFit didn’t even do that, remaining silent for over a week after Floyd’s death, which some in the community found disconcerting and even damning... Founder Greg Glassman then outraged people further when he wrote a controversial tweetabout Floyd, comparing Floyd’s killing and the subsequent uprising to the coronavirus. Then, he made offensive comments while on a call with CrossFit gym owners... High-level trainersathletes, and owners have resigned, vowed to disaffiliate from the brand, or spoken out... Reebok, Rogue Fitness, and other brands cut ties with CrossFit.

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