Retailers show solidarity with protesters

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NEW YORK — From Albertsons Cos. to Walgreens, retailers are expressing solidarity with Americans protesting the police killing of George Floyd. Retailers large and small have vowed to combat racism and discrimination within their organizations. Some also are lending support to advocates of systemic reform.

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are committing $100 million over five years to establish a new center for racial equity that will support philanthropic initiatives that align with the nation’s financial, health care, education and criminal justice systems.

Target Corp. announced a commitment of $10 million, on top of ongoing efforts, to advance social justice and support rebuilding and recovery efforts. Target was among retailers forced to temporarily close stores damaged by looters operating under cover of the protests.

Hy-Vee Inc. announced plans to donate $1 million and provide 1 million volunteer hours to organizations supporting racial unity and equality, primarily in the eight states in which it operates.

The Rite Aid Foundation said it was launching a Racial Equity Awareness and Action Initiative that seeks to drive meaningful progress and sustainable change.

Albertsons Cos. announced a $5 million donation to social justice organizations as well as those on the front line of the fight for equality.

Beyond the corporate commitments, retail leaders raised their voices on issues of racial injustice and police violence.

“Like those who have gathered in great numbers peacefully yet passionately, we stand committed to confronting racism and discrimination,” Steve Anderson, president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, said in a statement.

“As is the case across business settings, we recognize that people of color on our pharmacy teams may feel heartbroken, numb or exhausted as a result of the most recent tragedies involving George Floyd and others. The same is true of the diverse customers whom they serve,” Anderson said. “Individuals and entities are considering this issue from their own perspectives, and NACDS is among the organizations doing so.”

Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, noted the “deep dismay and shared outraged” of the latest killing of an unarmed black man by police. “Yet racial injustice continues,” Shay said in a statement. “There is a real problem and divide in this country that we share the responsibility to address. It requires leadership in the municipal, state and federal levels of government, in our schools, our places of worship, our businesses and our homes, so we can work together — honestly, transparently and inclusively — to find solutions.”

Target chairman and CEO Brian Cornell characterized the aftermath of the Floyd killing by a Minneapolis policeman as “an inflection point” for the city and the nation. “Target stands with black families, communities and team members,” he said. “We’re listening to our team, guests and communities, committed to using our size, scale and resources to help heal and create lasting change.”

On the day that Walmart normally would have held its annual shareholders gala, chief executive officer Doug McMillon addressed the subject of racial violence in a virtual meeting with employees.

“The murder of George Floyd is tragic, painful and unacceptable. His death is not an isolated event. We remember Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many other black Americans who have been killed,” he said. “It’s important that we all understand that our problems, as a nation, run much deeper than one horrible event. Our nation has failed to fully acknowledge and resolve the root issues. Slavery, lynching, the concept of separate but equal and the other realities from our past have morphed into a set of systems today that are all too often unjust. That’s why we see so many people mobilized, and that’s why we see a diverse group of Americans joining the protest.”

McMillon continued, “Let me say clearly to our black and African-American associates and communities, ‘We hear you. We see you. I want you to know you are valued. You are loved members of our family. We need you to know you are not hurting alone. That I and others are hurting with you.’ ”

Words and feelings matter but they are not enough,” McMillon said. “More action is required. We will find new ways to accelerate the desired changes inside our company, and we will also find the ways that our business can influence real change in our country.”



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