Companies Promise Actions Amid Public Attention to Racial Inequality


How companies plan to fight racial inequality and the changes at the top levels that will follow.

Big companies ranging from tech giants such as Apple Inc. and Google to retailers such as Walmart have pledged to donate and change practice amid public attention to how they handle the racial controversies spurred by George Floyd’s tragedy, reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Apple announced on Thursday a $100 million donation to a racial justice initiative in education, economic equality and criminal justice reform.

Susan Wojcicki, chief executive of the YouTube branch under Google, said that the video platform would create a $100 million fund to amplify content from black creators and highlight racial justice issues through the official channel.

Likewise, Microsoft Corp. said it will not sell facial recognition technology to U.S. police until a national law regulating the use of this technology is carried out. Inc. and International Business Machines Corp. made similar commitments recently.

Meanwhile, another issue rose to public attention: the fact that the big corporations lack black talents on their leadership boards. For example, among Apple’s top 12 executives, 10 of them are white.

Apple’s Chief Executive Tim Cook posted Thursday a video on Twitter, in which he said, “Things must change and Apple is committed to being a force for that change.” A new racial justice initiative within Apple will be led by Lisa Jackson, head of environment, policy and social initiatives, the sole black member on the senior leadership board. Jackson formerly served in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the Obama Administration.

Walmart Inc. CEO Doug McMillion also said that the company will start a special committee to promote racial equity and justice solutions.

Cosmetic brand Estée Lauder Cos. brought out a plan to improve diversity within the company, as Executive Chairman William Lauder and CEO Fabrizio Freda promised that the company will have a more than 13 percent share of black employees by 2025, mirroring the U.S. population.

The cable and internet giant NBCUniversal announced this week that the company will spend $100 million in the next several years to “fight injustice and inequality against any race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation or ability.”

While big companies have attempted to address the racial controversy through donations and pledges of actions, business leaders who have not reacted promptly faced backlashes from customers and employees. Audrey Gelman, CEO of the women-focused club network the Wing stepped down due to complaints from employees, and CrossFit Inc. founder Greg Glassman retired this week due to pressure from sponsors.

“Your employees expect you to have some understanding of diversity and inclusion related issues,” said Joseph West, partner and chief diversity and inclusion officer at law firm Duane Morris LLP. “Your customer base is far more likely to think with their feet and dollars and act accordingly if you don’t have some fluency around these issues. A lot of times the judgment can be swift. This may be a me-too moment for race relations.”

See the full report here.


Economics, Finance and Investing