U.S. Corporations Respond To George Floyd Murder And Subsequent Protests

June 22, 2020

There has been a huge reaction among U.S. corporations across various business sectors in response to the George Floyd murder and the protests that followed. Reactions include pledges to increase diversity, donations to civil rights groups and, in some cases, changes in policies or practices.  

Among the reactions:

IBM said on June 8 it would no longer sell or research facial recognition tools that critics contend are biased against people of color.

Paramount said on June 9 it would discontinue the reality show "Cops" after 33 years on the air. Critics say the show has glorified police violence.

HBO said on June 9 it would pull from its HBO Max streaming service the Oscar-winning 1939 film "Gone with the Wind," long decried for its racist depictions of blacks in the antebellum South.

L'Oreal on June 9 rehired Munroe Bergdorf, a British black transgender model it fired in 2017 after she described all white people as racist. The company offered Bergdorf a seat on a newly formed UK diversity and inclusion advisory board.

Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and Square, announced on June 9 that June 19 would become a paid holiday every year for employees of both companies. The date commemorates the June 19, 1865, reading in Texas of President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Declaration, which brought an end to slavery in the U.S.

Amazon on June 10 imposed a one-year moratorium on police use of its facial recognition product, Rekognition, which critics say is more likely to misidentify people with darker skin and more likely to be used in minority communities.

NASCAR on June 10 banned the Confederate flag at all its car racing tracks and events, saying the symbol of white segregationists "runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans."

Walmart said on June 10 it would no longer keep "multicultural hair and beauty products" in locked display cases at any of its stores. Critics had said doing so suggested consumers of those products are more likely to shoplift.

Apple said on June 11 the iPhone maker would increase spending with black-owned suppliers as part of a $100 million racial equity and justice initiative, while Google's YouTube video service said it would spend $100 million to fund black content creators. 

Starbucks said on June 12 it would allow employees to wear Black Lives Matter T-shirts and pins, rolling back restrictions on how baristas could show support for the social movement against racism.

Mastercard in a message to its employees on June 12 said June 19 will be a holiday for its employees and the day would be designated as Mastercard Day of Solidarity.

J.C. Penney Co CEO Jill Soltau said in a blog post dated June 15 that June 19 would be made an annual company holiday.

Swedish music streaming firm Spotify Technology SA said on June 16 that June 19 would be a paid holiday for its U.S. staff.

On June 17, PepsiCo’s Quaker Oats business said it would remove the image of Aunt Jemima from its packaging and change the name of the syrup brand, citing the brand's origins in racist imagery of black people.

On June 17, Conagra Brands announced a review of its Mrs. Butterworth's syrup brand, saying while the brand is intended to evoke the images of a loving grandmother, “we can see that our packaging may be interpreted in a way that is wholly inconsistent with our values.”

On June 17, Mars announced plans for a “brand evolution” for its Uncle Ben's rice brand as a way to “take a stand in helping to put an end to racial bias and injustices.”

On June 18, B&G Foods announced an immediate review of its Cream of Wheat brand packaging, citing concerns regarding the brand's chef image. The company said it “will proactively take steps to ensure that we and our brands do not inadvertently contribute to systemic racism.”

Nevin Barich is the Consumer Products Analyst at Industry Intelligence, which can help YOU better address your own industry challenges. To arm yourself with the latest market intelligence, contact ClientCare@IndustryIntel.com or call 310-553-0008 if you’re interested in receiving or sharing the IMPACT report with your colleagues or partners.

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