What’s good for business
Andrew here. Yesterday’s guilty verdict against George Floyd’s murderer, a former Minneapolis police officer, was a symbol of something profound: a demonstrable shift in the way this country, increasingly supported by business, has strived for civil rights.
As we ponder the meaning of this decision, it is worth recalling a moment in 1965, in the middle of that era’s civil rights movement.
A Wall Street bond firm, C.F. Securities, told Alabama that it would “no longer buy or sell bonds issued by the state or any of its political subdivisions.” Gov. George C. Wallace, who objected to desegregation, had said the state shouldn’t pay for the National Guard to protect Martin Luther King Jr. and protesters in the Selma-to-Montgomery march.
The investment firm’s executive vice president, Donald E. Barnes, wrote to the governor that his failure “to protect the citizens of Alabama in their exercise of constitutional rights” amounted to “discouragements to Alabama’s economic future.” He insisted that the move was based on economic risk, but the letter made clear it was about more than that.
The rest of corporate America was mostly silent, or opposed: Moody’s said it was “not sympathetic with the civil rights movement” and had no plan to change the state’s credit rating.
What C.F. Securities did may have been unique in 1965. But this past year has proved that business is playing a much larger role in social justice, even if progress has been far too slow and much work remains. Companies have given employees paid time off on Juneteenth; the N.B.A. emblazoned the words “Black Lives Matter” on courts; Netflix steered its cash into local banks that serve Black communities; Wall Street banks announced programs worth billions to support Black communities; and just last week, in perhaps the greatest demonstration of the new responsibility business is feeling, 700 companies and executives signed a letter opposing laws that make it harder for people to vote.
“The murder of George Floyd last Memorial Day felt like a turning point for our country. The solidarity and stand against racism since then have been unlike anything I’ve experienced,” Brian Cornell, the C.E.O. of Target, wrote in a note to employees of the Minneapolis-based retailer yesterday. “Like outraged people everywhere, I had an overwhelming hope that today’s verdict would provide real accountability. Anything short of that would have shaken my faith that our country had truly turned a corner.”
You know what? Justice is good for business.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
The European Super League has collapsed. Plans to create a closed competition of top soccer clubs fell apart yesterday when six English teams withdrew, bowing to outrage from fans and threats by lawmakers. Shortly after, an official at the Super League said the project had been suspended, ending an effort to upend soccer’s multibillion-dollar economics.
Johnson & Johnson resumes the rollout of its vaccine in the E.U. The bloc’s drug regulator said that the shot’s benefits outweigh a small risk of blood clots, but wants a warning added. U.S. regulators will decide whether to end a pause on the vaccine in the coming days.
Goldman Sachs releases worker diversity data. The Wall Street bank disclosed for the first time how many of its senior U.S. executives are Black: 49 out of more than 1,500. Banks agreed last year to publish more information about their work forces; Morgan Stanley has an even smaller share of Black executives than Goldman.
Apple’s new products raise competition concerns. The tech giant unveiled new iPads and iMacs, and a revamped podcast app. But its new AirTags, which attach to items to help find them, was criticized by the C.E.O. of Tile, which makes a similar product. Apple also said it would roll out new iOS privacy features — criticized by Facebook and other app makers — next week.
Read More:More Businesses Are Standing for Justice