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How Cisco is responding to the death of George Floyd

June 9, 2020, 10:55 AM UTC

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Good morning.

I took notice this weekend when the New York Times quoted a law professor saying most CEO statements about the George Floyd killing “were put together by the marketing team that was trying not to offend white customers and white employees.” Maybe some were. But it’s pretty clear to me, having spent a lifetime poring over dull corporate press releases, that some definitely were not.

Chuck Robbins, CEO of Cisco, falls into the second camp. He called it “horrific,” “maddening” and “truly abhorrent”–words not normally found in the PR playbook. For Robbins, it seems, this was quite personal.

So Fortune’s Ellen McGirt and I decided to invite him to join us on Leadership Next, our podcast about the changing rules of business leadership, out this morning here.

Robbins says Cisco will work on making its highest ranks more diverse, and emphasizes internal communications with its employees.

“Times have changed,” Robbins says. “Running a company, the most important asset you have are your people. In order to create an environment where you want the best talent to be, there is an expectation that you will talk about these issues.” The interview is well worth 20 minutes of your time.

By the way, Robbins said he read the book White Fragility nine months ago, and it helped prepare him for communicating in this difficult moment. My daughter recommended the same book to me over the weekend. It’s next up on my reading list.

More news below. And tomorrow, we’ve got a stellar selection of Asian CEOs meeting virtually with members of the Fortune CEO Initiative, to talk about lessons they’ve learned from reopening. The group includes Alibaba’s Daniel Zhang, Grab’s Anthony Tan, Rakuten’s Hiroshi Mikitani and Yum China’s Joey Wat. I’ll report back here.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray

alan.murray@fortune.com

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.

TOP NEWS

It's here

The U.S. is officially in a recession now, having peaked in February. The longest economic expansion in American history began in June 2009 and lasted 128 months—the previous record, of 120 months, took place between March 1991 and March 2001. The National Bureau of Economic Research: "The unprecedented magnitude of the decline in employment and production, and its broad reach across the entire economy, warrants the designation of this episode [of the last few months] as a recession, even if it turns out to be briefer than earlier contractions." Fortune

Hong Kong

Hong Kong's hedge funds have their eye on the exit, fearing they will lose out when Beijing imposes its national security law. One hedge fund adviser told the Financial Times: "Hong Kong as we know it is dead. It will become just another city in China. The hedge fund community will move on to Singapore and elsewhere." Financial Times

Cathay Pacific

The Hong Kong government is giving Cathay Pacific a $3.87 billion bailout. The flag carrier has been hit by the double whammy of unrest in Hong Kong and the coronavirus pandemic around the world. The bailout comprises a loan and the acquisition of a large stake in the company. Cathay chairman Patrick Healy: "We are grateful to the HKSAR Government’s capital support, which allows Cathay Pacific to maintain our operations and continue to contribute to Hong Kong’s international aviation hub status." Fortune

Facial recognition

IBM has taken the drastic step of scrapping its general-purpose facial recognition and analysis software products, in response to police brutality. CEO Arvind Krishna: "IBM firmly opposes and will not condone uses of any technology, including facial recognition technology offered by other vendors, for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms, or any purpose which is not consistent with our values and Principles of Trust and Transparency." Fortune

AROUND THE WATER COOLER

Patient data

Peter Thiel's Palantir has acquired the personal data of millions of British citizens from the country's National Health Service (NHS). The data-sharing agreement was intended to help Palantir and others set up a national platform for understanding the spread of the coronavirus. Palantir is charging a mere $1.27 for this, and Google is offering its technical and advisory support for free. CNBC

Coal free

At midnight tomorrow, Britain will have gone a whole two months without burning coal for power. The National Grid's coal-fired plants were the first to be shut down when the coronavirus pandemic struck, and the last came off the system on April 9. The previous record was 18 days, 6 hours and 10 minutes. Just a decade ago, two-fifths of the country's power came from coal. BBC

Defunding police

When people call for the defunding of the police, what do they mean? As Fortune's Nicole Goodkind explains: "The idea is that American communities have come to rely on their more than 18,000 police agencies to do much more than police. They’re fighting terrorism abroad, performing homeless services, working with children in schools, responding to calls for mental health crises, performing social work and welfare checks, mediating domestic disputes, and responding to drug overdoses. Often, they’re not trained to perform these tasks. Those who call for police defunding say they would rather have some duties handled by nonviolent specialists trained in social work, education, or drug counseling." Fortune

Dismantling racism

Black employees should not be given the sole responsibility of leading diversity and antiracism efforts at companies that want to dismantle systemic racism, writes Logitech marketing reinvention chief Najoh Tita-Reid in a piece for Fortune: "Nonblack leaders, please just be aware that while you may want to lift up black voices right now, you must be mindful of the physical and emotional bandwidth of black employees and leaders—and first take responsibility to be the change before asking black workers to lead the change." Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.