Many companies condemned the death of George Floyd at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests.
PR pros say it’s still an opportunity for education.
“Sharpen your focus on employees,” advised Conroy Boxhill, an EVP and MD at Porter Novelli. “And make sure your actions speak louder than your words.”
Shani St. John, Porter’s SVP of strategy and insights, noted any communication involves risks.
“When in doubt, let your company’s values and purpose be the guide on whether, how, where and when to communicate,” she said.
One year later, which companies took actions that reflect values and the staying power of promises made during a historically defining moment?
Last year, the company placed a year-long moratorium on police use of Rekognition, its facial recognition technology.
Amazon’s DEI commitments include, for a second year in a row, doubling the number of US Black directors and VPs from its 2020 numbers.
The company has pledged to increase the hiring in the US of Black employees at specialist, manager and senior manager levels by at least 30% compared to last year; and to increase by at least 40% U.S. Black software development engineer interns.
Amazon also launched programs across the company, recruiting and training more than 5,000 Black, Latinx and Native American professionals.
Last June, Apple committed $100 million to address systemic barriers to equity and equality.
In 2021, it updated its commitments to include launching the Propel Center, which supports students and faculty in historically Black colleges and universities in AI, machine learning, augmented reality and app development.
The tech company opened a developer academy in Detroit; and invested with Harlem Capital, Siebert Williams Shank’s Clear Vision Impact Fund and Vamos Ventures to help entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities access capital. Apple also created scholarships and grants for engineering programs, and donated to criminal and racial justice organisations such as the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Black Lives Matter Support Fund.
Bank of America
In June 2020, Bank of America promised to spend $1 billion over four years to address racial and economic inequality. In March 2021, it increased the commitment to $1.25 billion.
During the past year, some of its projects included working with the Smithsonian Institution, iHeartMedia and the Boys & Girls Club. In September 2020, the bank directed $200 million towards equity investments in minority entrepreneurs, businesses and funds, and $100 million to support jobs, community outreach and equity investments in minority depository institutions.
It also committed $25 million to skills training for Black and Hispanic-Latino students with 21 higher education institutions; over $13 million to Native American communities hit hard by Covid-19; and with Morehouse College, Spelman College and the Black Economic Alliance Foundation launched the Center for Black Entrepreneurship.
The bank stated 50% of its board of directors is diverse; 50% of its management team is diverse and 48% of its US workforce are people of colour.
On Monday, Citibank EVP of global public affairs Edward Skyler sent an internal memo stating the video of Floyd’s murder “is as vivid and painful as ever and serves as a reminder of how far America must still go to fulfill its promise as a nation of opportunity for all.”
He reaffirmed Citi’s dedication to being an anti-racist institution, taking concrete actions.
Citi’s Action for Racial Equity includes more than $1 billion in programs to help close the racial wealth gap. He stated the bank furthered efforts to recruit, retain and promote diverse employees, including working with historically Black educational institutions.
“There is much more work that needs to be done—and we are determined to do what is necessary, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable it may be,” wrote Skyler. “I hope we can continue to set an example for others by showing how our diversity is our true strength.”
On Monday, CEO Mary Barra tweeted the one-year anniversary of Floyd’s murder was a day of remembrance and respect.
“We reflect on how a moment sparked a movement, the progress we have made, and the reality of how much work remains,” she wrote.
Last week, GM posted a LinkedIn message opposing bias and injustice. It listed its actions taken,such as providing DEI training to over 50,000 dealer team members and its involvement with a coalition to support one million Black individuals in the next 10 years with family-sustaining jobs and opportunities for advancement.
It also committed $4 million of its $10 million Justice and Inclusion Fund to support the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the MLK Memorial Foundation’s Social Justice Fellows Program, the Asian Pacific American Institute Congressional Studies Fellowship Program and other organisations involved in racial justice.
On Wednesday, Reebok president Matt O’Toole sent an internal message reflecting upon the year since Floyd’s murder.
“[Now] is not the time to take our foot off the gas. In fact, it’s more important than ever that we stay vigilant,” stated O’Toole. He affirmed continued investment “to fight racism and injustice and to develop our own culture to become a truly inclusive community.”
The athletic shoe and apparel company in 2020 committed to investing $15 million over the next five years in Black and Latinx communities and organisations focused on ending racial injustice. In 2021, the company relaunched the Reebok Human Rights Award, and focused its nonprofit school exercise program, BOKS, on Black and LatinX communities, with a new $200,000 grant program.
Last year, Reebok targeted a minimum of 30% of all open positions to be filled with Black or Latinx talent and at least 50% of new hires for all open positions to be filled with diverse talent inclusive of all diverse categories. The company is targeting by 2025 to have 20% to 23% Black and Latinx employees in corporate roles, and 12% in US leadership positions. Reebok said it is exceeding each of these targets.
Last week, Target posted company news of progress made by its internal racial equity committee to “create lasting systemic change for our Black guests, team members and communities.”
In its diversity report last year, the retailer pledged to increase representation of Black employees by 20% over the next three years. The retailer noted it has grown the number of Black senior leaders by nearly 40%.
Target has committed to spend more than $2 billion with Black-owned businesses, such as vendors, construction firms and ad agencies by the end of 2025. Its programs included helping Black entrepreneurs scale their businesses, and provided almost 8,000 pro bono hours to support local Black businesses.
In addition, it launched a scholarship program to support students at historically Black colleges and universities.
Walmart tweeted a statement from its CEO Doug McMillon on the anniversary of Floyd’s murder. It acknowledged the country’s long history of racism. The retail giant pledged to continue to act, stating, “equality and justice are worth fighting for and working for.”
McMillon’s statement noted the company’s $5 million investment at North Carolina A&T State University to launch an equity in education program; and with the Walmart Foundation a $100 million commitment for its Center for Racial Equity. In February, it distributed the first set of grants totaling $14.3 million.