Target CEO Brian Cornell says George Floyd ‘could have been one of my Target team members’

Target CEO Brian Cornell
Brian Cornell, CEO of Target.

  • George Floyd, who was murdered last year by a Minneapolis police officer, could have been a Target employee, CEO Brian Cornell said.
  • Floyd’s murder took place “just blocks away” from the company’s Minneapolis headquarters, Cornell said.
  • Cornell called the conviction of the officer involved a sign of progress and accountability.
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Target CEO Brian Cornell has been particularly outspoken about the murder of George Floyd last year by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of the crime last week.

“It happened only blocks from our headquarters,” the CEO of the Minnesota-based retail giant told the Economic Club of Chicago on Tuesday. “My first reaction watching on TV was that could have been one of my Target team members.”

In the conversation with Mary Dillon, CEO of Ulta Beauty and incoming chair of the club, Cornell discussed the steps the company has taken to address the issues raised by Floyd’s death, including law enforcement’s treatment of Black Americans and racial inequity.

“For so many of us, we saw that verdict as a sign of progress, a sign of accountability, but also a recognition that the work is just starting and there’s much more work that we have to do,” Cornell said.

Floyd’s death, which was caught on video, led to widespread protests last summer and calls for an examination of systemic racism in the country.

Target has since gathered a special committee focused on supporting Black employees and expanding business with Black-owned vendor partners.

Earlier in April, the company announced it would spend more than $2 billion on black-owned businesses by 2025 by purchasing goods from more than 500 Black-owned businesses and contracting with Black-owned services from marketing to construction.

Cornell says addressing these challenges should not be delegated to someone else in the C-suite.

“As CEOs we have to be the company’s head of diversity and inclusion,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure that we represent our company principles, our values, our company purpose on the issues that are important to our teams.”

The $93 billion company now has more than 1900 stores, and more than a third are led by people of color, Cornell said. His executive leadership team and board are similarly diverse, he said.

Lawmakers in Washington have renewed calls to boost the minimum wage to $15 per hour, though some retailers say the move would lead to higher prices and potentially fewer jobs. Advocates for boosting the minimum wage point to research that shows higher wages reduce inequality and will pull many workers out of poverty.

Target instituted a $15 hourly starting wage in 2017.

“There were a lot of naysayers. In fact, many people didn’t actually expect that target would be here today but those investments have proved incredibly beneficial.” A forthcoming distribution center in Chicago will have a starting wage of $18 per hour and provide over 2,000 jobs, he added.

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Expensify CEO slams corporate America’s response to the Capitol riots: ‘Defending the free market does not mean standing by as people destroy it’

David Barrett.

  • Expensify CEO David Barrett slammed corporate America’s response to the attacks on the US Capitol.
  • Barrett told Insider that defending free markets requires first defending democracy.
  • He also told Protocol most CEOs are “cowards” for refusing to take those stands.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

As more companies publicly condemn the violent attacks on the US Capitol and pause their financial support for the lawmakers who helped fuel an attempted insurrection, Expensify CEO David Barrett has harsh words for the holdouts.

“Most CEOs, it’s not that they’re bad people, they’re just cowards. They’re like, ‘yeah, I would like to take a stand, but I can’t because of investors, customers and things like this,'” he told Protocol in an interview Tuesday.

“It basically comes down to, ‘I care more about hitting the next quarter results than preventing a civil war,’ which is so f—ed up. They’re more afraid of their investors than they are of militants,” Barrett said, according to Protocol.

Barrett gained attention in October when he emailed Expensify’s 10 million customers urging them to vote for then-candidate Joe Biden, and defending the move by saying: “Expensify depends on a functioning society and economy; not many expense reports get filed during a civil war.”

Read more: ‘Anything less than a vote for Biden is a vote against democracy’: Expensify’s CEO tells us why the company emailed 10 million customers urging them to vote for Biden

The move stood in stark contrast to companies like Facebook, Google, and Coinbase that had sought to crack down on political discussions internally.

But Barrett told Insider in an interview Tuesday that when it comes to actions as extreme as the attempted insurrection earlier this month by supporters of President Donald Trump, or Republican lawmakers’ attempts to overturn democratic election results, “we’re all obligated to step in.”

That’s especially the case for business leaders, he added, arguing that their companies depend on free markets to be successful and free markets depend on a functioning democracy.

“It’s important for us to step in to defend the pillars of democracy – free speech, access to information, access to services, fair voting, and things like this – in order to maintain that free market,” he said. “We need to defend the free market itself, which cannot be separated from democracy, but defending the free market does not mean standing by as people destroy it.”

Barrett praised companies’ decisions to pause their political contributions to the 147 Republicans who tried to challenge the Electoral College results, but added that those actions only matter if they’re “sustained.”

“Anyone who voted against certifying the results should probably be blacklisted from politics … like, you can’t be part of a democracy and then openly despise it,” he said. “We need to make it overwhelmingly clear to our elected leaders that that is unacceptable. And I think that business owners, CEOs, business leaders, employees, everyone needs to speak with a united voice that democracy is more important than anything else.”

While dozens of major corporations have suspended those political contributions, several have cut all ties to Trump, and one even called on Vice President Mike Pence to remove Trump from office by invoking the 25th Amendment, few companies have committed to permanently cutting financial ties with anti-democratic lawmakers.

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PRESENTING: We analyzed 23 memos from CEOs responding to the US Capitol riot. The most effective messages get personal.

Albert Bourla is the CEO of Pfizer.

On Wednesday, a pro-Trump mob stormed the US Capitol while Congress was confirming Joe Biden’s win in the presidential election. It took hours for authorities to clear the Capitol building. Five people died.

As news of the attempted coup spread, business leaders across industries – including tech, finance, and healthcare – sent staff memos and issued public statements decrying the violence. Collectively, the messages expressed sadness, outrage, and hope for a better future.

Insider reviewed 23 of those memos looking for common themes. Some memos were posted publicly on social media; others were emailed directly to staff and reported in other media outlets. 

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We analyzed 23 memos from CEOs responding to the US Capitol riot. The most effective messages get personal.

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