June 2, 2020 | 5:21 pm
It has been a week since George Floyd was arrested by two Minneapolis police officers. After his death, helped by one of the police officers putting his knee on Floyd’s neck, protests in the United States against police brutality and racism have not stopped.
And it’s time for companies to join in, but they must go beyond simply denouncing racism to stay in tune with the moment, said Ken Freazer, chief executive of Merck, in an interview with CNBC.
“People make statements, they say platitudes, that this is terrible,” said the leader of the world’s oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company, but the “fundamental question is whether we are doing more than what we are asked to give to people all the tools to participate in this society ”.
Frazier, the only black CEO of a company that makes up the Dow Jones Index, attributes his success to an educational initiative that brought a handful of black students from Philadelphia to the best schools in the city.
The hiring and promotion of Afro-descendants and Latinos is essential to combat inequality, and companies should not expect leadership from Washington in that regard, he said.
“Our society is more divided than it has ever been,” said Frazier.
Large companies issued statements rejecting discrimination, and some, such as Apple and Bank of America, put money to support civil liberties groups or support programs for disadvantaged sectors.
However, the deep and ancient inequality in the United States persists both in society and within big business.
A 2019 report from the Boston Consulting Group revealed that just three of the 500 largest American companies were led by black people and only 24 by women.
In 2018, the median income for a white household in the United States was $ 70,642 a year versus $ 41,692 for an Afro-descendant family, according to data from the Institute for Economic Policy, a progressive think tank.
Marketing experts believe that companies that measure up to the moment have a reward.
“The business sector has the opportunity to fill the void left by the government,” said Richard Edelman, head of a corporate communication firm.
“It doesn’t have to be just communication, there has to be action,” added Edelman, citing support for minority-owned contractors or giving jobs to people who were imprisoned.
Other concrete steps include supporting African-American and Latino startups and having senior executives serve on boards of directors of community groups and non-governmental organizations that support disadvantaged sectors.
Experts urge big business to emulate the National Football League’s “Rooney Rule,” which requires teams to interview minority candidates for managerial positions and senior operating positions when there are vacancies.
“There are a number of firms that want to put themselves in the window,” said Hank Boyd, professor of marketing at the University of Maryland. “You have to act and you have to act quickly.”
Music and sports join the protest
On social networks, the #BlackOutTuesday initiative came out from music producers Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, which proposes that members of the music industry take a break from social media to reflect on racism and, as a sign of that action, call for a black background in each profile.
In addition to members of the music industry, actors and actresses, as well as citizens, they have joined the protest, which has left millions of publications and which was also joined by athletes such as basketball players Lebron James and Stephen Curry, the quarterbacks of the NFL Tom Brady and Drew Brees and tennis players Sloane Stephens and Coco Gauff,
British driver Lewis Hamilton denounced the silence of other Formula 1 stars.
“No one lifts a finger in my industry, which is of course a white-dominated sport. I am one of the few people of color, I am still alone, ”said the British pilot this weekend on the Instagram social network
While in Germany, players players Weston McKennie, Jadon Sancho and Achraf Hakimi from the German Soccer Federation paid tribute to Floyd with messages on armbands and on their uniforms, an action that is already being evaluated by the Disciplinary Commission of the German Federation of Soccer (DFB) who will determine if the gestures in tribute to Floyd can carry a sanction.
FIFA “fully understands the depth of the feelings and concerns expressed by various footballers after the tragic circumstances of the George Floyd case,” the 46-year-old American died at the hands of the Minneapolis police last Monday during his arrest.
FIFA, which “repeatedly shows its opposition to all forms of racism and discrimination”, recalls the application of the rules of the game approved by the IFAB: “Leave the organizers of the competitions, which must show good sense and take I consider the context surrounding the events. ”
The Disciplinary Commission of the German Football Federation (DFB) will determine whether gestures in tribute to Floyd may carry a penalty, the DFB itself announced Monday.