Our CEO, Mark Clouse, shared the following message with our employees on Monday in response to the multiple incidents of violence and racism against Black Americans. He also addressed this issue during an appearance on CNBC yesterday, which you can also watch here.
I will not be doing a video this week, as I wanted to take the time to reflect on what we have witnessed over the last several weeks.
During this period of pandemic and the related economic crisis, I have seen countless examples of the best of humanity. However, the last few weeks have also been a dramatic reminder of what remains an ongoing and unaddressed reality of systemic racism in our country.
Recently we have seen a staggering series of incidents of violence and racism involving African Americans: the killing of Ahmaud Arbery while he was jogging in Georgia; the tragic death of Breonna Taylor; Christian Cooper, who was subjected to a racist incident in Central Park while he was bird watching; the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis; and the ensuing events that have erupted across the United States. My heart goes out to them, their families and to the countless others who have been subject to similar acts of racism and injustice.
It is sickening to me to watch people targeted and persecuted again and again for the color of their skin. Like many of you, I am also horrified and outraged by all of these recent events. As I engaged in conversation with many of you and other friends and family members, it is clear to me that my outrage is simply not enough.
So, what do I do, as a fellow human being, a white male, and someone in a position of privilege, power and influence? What I know is that our Black colleagues need my action, and not just my empathy. I can and will do more.
I believe the first thing I can do is demonstrate compassion. While I do not have the shared experiences of Black Americans or others who have been subjected to repeated discrimination, I do know what it feels like to witness an injustice to someone else—and to decide whether to stand up or to stand by and be complicit.
I can ensure we create the space, understanding, and resources to let our employees who are impacted by these situations process and reflect on these tragic events in their own ways. Some will be more personally affected than others, as they may be angry, frightened or struggling to explain to their children why these things are happening. To those employees, please know that I see you and I hear you. I cannot begin to imagine the sense of anger, fear and exhaustion you are feeling, but please know that you have my support and commitment to act. Any employee who needs assistance can also leverage our Employee Assistance Program by calling [REDACTED]. We will be supplementing our support to ensure we can meet the specific needs of our families in this moment.
The next action we will take is to better understand the problems we are trying to solve and face head-on the realities of what is happening around us. We must do this if we wish to have any hope of understanding and addressing these problems, including making sure we continue to work to avoid and eliminate any conscious or unconscious bias within Campbell.
As some of you may know, the company has been working with the Kaleel Jamison Group who has been coaching and impacting organizations on diversity for decades. They are helping educate us as we construct specific plans to make real change. We will accelerate these plans starting with me and the leadership team, and we will aggressively dig into the issues of racism and bias. We will face these insights head on, even when they are difficult to hear, and even as they identify opportunities we may have to make changes or progress here at Campbell. This work will become the basis for a broad education and development plan for our entire organization and will be embedded directly into our leader development plans and specific individual objectives that will be measured in our OKRs for Fiscal 21.
I also want to make it clear that we have a zero-tolerance policy for any form of bias or racism at Campbell. From the hallways of our facilities to the marketing of our products…conscious or unconscious…we must seek to identify, stop, and remedy anything we see or experience that is inappropriate, big or small.
I ask all of you in the moments when these issues are experienced or raised, in whatever form that feedback comes, to listen to it. That moment is not the time to coach people who are giving thoughtful feedback that is passionate, frustrated or emotional. It is too important a time to get defensive. Rather, it is the time to listen to their concern and be open to understand and address it. Identifying and solving these issues cannot be a burden shouldered only by our Black colleagues, other people of color, our Employee Resource Groups, or the Inclusion & Diversity team at Campbell. It is all of our jobs.
Let’s work together to learn more about bias and racism, why it happens, and what to do to stop it. It’s not easy, and it is a complex issue, but I promise I will hold myself and our leaders accountable to own this effort. I recognize that many of you may see or hear this as the same kind of plan and actions from the past, and I also know many of you are frustrated with the lack or pace of change over the years. This is not going to be the same, we can and will do better.
I also want to take a moment to address the violence we have seen in cities across the U.S. and affirm, as we have been saying since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, our first mission is to take care of each other. We are in communication with team members and leaders in these cities to ensure we are taking every precaution and supporting all of our employees and their families.
In closing, I thought I would share a story of hope especially because it comes from our hometown of Camden, where police marched arm-in-arm with protestors this weekend. I believe that if Camden can go from where it was just a few years ago to become the beacon of hope it was this weekend, then imagine what we can do. Please don’t wait, start today, seek to understand and join the conversation.
We may not change the entire world, but we certainly can become a better example of what the world could be.
I look forward to being together on Thursday at the Employee Forum where we’ll discuss our third-quarter results and have time for further discussion.