GREENSBORO – Steve Rendle, the chairman, president & CEO of US apparel group, VF Corp, has written to all his company’s employees calling on them to help fight the ‘pandemic’ of racism. His message comes in the wake of the death of George Floyd, an African American who was killed by an Minneapolis police officer who pinned him to the ground and held a knee on his neck. The death has led to violent clashes between police and demononstrators in the US.
In his message to staff, Rendle suggests that the death should never have happened, before adding, “if we’re honest, we know it likely will. We know this story all too well because it’s repeated with frustrating regularity, not only in the U.S. but all over the world. It’s heartbreaking. And it’s unacceptable.”
Rendle draws comparisms between racism and the current coronavirus pandemic. He says: “ … both have been caused by a virus. The virus behind our global shutdown has a formal name: COVID-19. The virus that caused the death of George Floyd and many other people of color also has a formal name. It’s called racism. Unfortunately, our world only seems interested in finding a cure for one of these diseases.
“Let’s be clear, racism isn’t an American issue alone. Yes, it’s inextricably linked to U.S. history, but racism doesn’t adhere to borders. It lives just below the surface in our global society and is triggered by certain events. For example, hatred is now being directed toward the Asian community in response to the coronavirus outbreak and its regional origin. The intersection of these two viruses is extremely ironic.”
The message adds: “Racism is not welcome at VF Corporation. It never has been and never will be.
“Starting today and over the coming weeks, you will see VF and our brands speak out against racism and engage both our associates and external audiences in positive, productive dialogue. And because many of us are hurting and feeling an extra level of anxiety these days, we will be taking concrete steps to support you during this time.
“This isn’t new territory for us. But the senseless death of George Floyd seems different. It seems like a turning point in this long battle against the racism virus. And while I’m not confident we will discover a cure in the near term, we need to start with acknowledging that racism is also a pandemic – and one that has been an immensely debilitating factor in our society and abhorrent to our professed values of inclusion and equality.
“We at VF will continue to do what’s right and lead by example through not just words, but actions. As always, we remain absolutely committed to ensuring that our company is one where everyone feels welcome, supported and inspired to be exactly who they are.”