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Friday feedback: Readers’ views on the corporate response to the George Floyd protests

June 5, 2020, 9:49 AM UTC

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Good morning.

It’s time for Friday feedback. Lots of response to my reports this week on CEO comments about the George Floyd killing and the reactions it has unleashed. A sampling:

“Lots of really eloquent and heartfelt statements which, without action, amount to the ‘thoughts and prayers’ we hear from our elected officials after gun violence. Nice but not particularly helpful. I’d be much more interested in hearing (and having Fortune give accounts of) the actions that these executives and their organizations are taking to help make our country a safer place for black people.”

“I just wanted to thank you for your piece this morning… Your leadership voice and platform is important on this issue with a mostly white and privileged audience. On my five boards, we are definitely talking about racial and social justice, which would have been unheard of at other times. And lest you think I’m throwing an empty compliment your way…I don’t always agree with your opinions, LOL, but I always applaud the strength of your convictions!”

“You are correct that much has changed since 1991; however, I don’t believe you can intimate that CEOs did not care about Rodney King. In 1991, CEOs did not have a forum to communicate with their customers and investors. Today every CEO can (and should) use Twitter, Facebook, Medium, etc. to communicate. The technology has changed.”

To be clear, I didn’t mean to suggest CEOs didn’t care about such things in the past. Just that they didn’t see it as their role to make public comments on them.

A few readers dinged me for focusing more on the protests than the violence associated with some of them.

“You guys have nerve calling today’s riots, looting, burning, and killing acts of protest. They’re acts of terror and nothing short of it.”

And several took issue with my using the Lenin quote about there being “weeks when decades happen.” K.S. suggested I use this quote from Ayn Rand instead:

“Capitalism was the only system in history where wealth was not acquired by looting, but by production, not by force, but by trade, the only system that stood for man’s right to his own mind, to his work, to his life, to his happiness, to himself.”

Thanks to all for the spirited input. And apologies to newsletter readers for a typo; it was Cadre’s Ryan Williams who grew up in Baton Rouge, not George Floyd.

More news below.

Alan Murray

Many companies are speaking out against racial injustices right now. But how do they fare in their own workplaces? Black employees in the corporate world, we want to hear from you: Please submit your anonymous thoughts and anecdotes here.


Facebook labeling

Facebook has begun flagging up to its users content produced by media outlets that are—as Facebook sees it—under state control. The labels began appearing yesterday on posts and pages from certain Russian, Chinese and Iranian outlets. State-controlled outlets will also, from later this summer, be barred from buying advertising in the U.S. NPR

Estee Lauder

Employees at Estee Lauder Companies have called for the removal of board member Ronald Lauder over his donations to pro-Trump organizations, saying his continued involvement with the group was "damaging to our corporate values, our relationship with the Black community, our relationship with this company’s Black employees, and this company’s legacy." The company says he does not represent its views, and it had pledged to donate $1 million in support of the black community (the employees want this increased fivefold.) Bloomberg

Boyega speech

Disney's Lucasfilm and a host of other stars have supported actor John Boyega after he spoke at a London Black Lives Matter protest on Wednesday. "I need you to understand how painful it is to be reminded every day that your race means nothing," Boyega said, while also remarking that he wasn't sure if he would "have a career after this." "Lucasfilm stands with John Boyega," said the Star Wars maker. "We got you, John," tweeted actor and director Jordan Peele. Fortune

Net zero

The Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit, a British non-profit, calculates that more than half the world's GDP is now being generates in countries that have "net zero" carbon emissions targets for 2050 or earlier. Meanwhile, H&M and Rolls-Royce are among the companies backing the United Nations' new Race to Zero campaign, which involves the same target. And the OECD and the U.N. Development Programme are calling for coronavirus stimulus packages to be green. Oh, and the world just had its warmest May on record. ECIU


Corporate allyship

How can companies best support their black employees at this turbulent moment? Yesterday's Broadsheet newsletter delved into that question, based on the thoughts of Fortune's Most Powerful Women community, and here are some suggestions: focus on black belonging, recognize your power, make room for mistakes, and be authentic. Fortune

Asian markets

Certain Asian markets have had significant partial recoveries since the depths of March—South Korea's Kospi is up a hair under 50%, Australia's ASX 200 is up just over 36%, Thailand's SET Composite is up more than 45%, and Japan's Nikkei 225 is up almost 39%. However, analysts warn it is too soon to assume the world's economies are engaging in a V-shaped recovery. Pictet Asset Management's Luca Paolini: "Markets are pricing in a permanent decline in the cost of capital rather than focusing on income and earnings, which is boosting valuations." CNBC

Lockdown strength

South Africa had an unusually strict coronavirus lockdown that kicked in at a very early stage and was highly successful at suppressing the virus's spread. But extremely hardcore restrictions—people couldn't go for a walk or even buy booze—cannot last and, now that they are being gradually lifted, the country's COVID-19 stats are skyrocketing. A South African court has also ruled that the regulations were "unconstitutional and invalid" because many of them came with no clear justification. Guardian

Year in leadership

Fortune's Shawn Tully has a great rundown of last year's CEO appointments and the trends they show: although the number remains small (four), there's been a significant rise in hirings of female CEOs; global experience is becoming increasingly prized; so is technical knowledge; and boards favor insiders—unless a turnaround is needed. Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.