- 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.