Chains reaffirm dedication to equality after protests

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NEW YORK — For an event to grab headlines and shift focus from the COVID-19 pandemic it would have had to be of historic proportions, and that’s exactly what unfolded shortly after the video surfaced of George Floyd dying at the hands of Minneapolis police.

The ensuing unrest has spread at a pace to rival that of the coronavirus and has reached all corners of the country. Despite the still lingering virus, protesters have donned masks and marched on state capitols and the White House demanding police reforms, and some of those protests have turned violent, resulting in the looting and destruction of many businesses, including chain drug and mass market retailers.

In response, many chains have had to shut down some stores, such as CVS Health, which said that more than 250 of its stores across 21 states sustained “varying levels of damage” due to the protests. The company said any stores that are closed will reopen once necessary repairs are made and it is deemed safe for employees.

At the same time, chief executive officer Larry Merlo affirmed the company’s commitment to inclusion in a message posted on the CVS website stating he was “deeply disturbed” by the killing of George Floyd.

Larry Merlo

Larry Merlo

“In our workforce and in our communities, CVS Health’s commitment to inclusion and belonging is unwavering. It is critical to those we serve and grounded in our company values,” Merlo stated. “We are a diverse community here at CVS Health, and that diversity is one of our key strengths.”

Merlo added: “Discrimination and intolerance have no place in our business and will not be permitted in any form.”

“Our commitment to the communities we serve is at the heart of everything we do and, especially now, we’re taking every step possible to reopen stores quickly, and to help ensure customers and patients have access to the medications and other essentials they need,” said Alex Gourlay, co-chief operating officer of Walgreens Boots Alliance. “Walgreens has a long history of being there for communities during times of need, and these efforts wouldn’t be possible without our dedicated team members who’ve come together across the company and the U.S. to assist. Many of our communities are hurting right now and, beyond our support for our customers and team members, we’re also focused on contributing to the healing so sorely needed nationwide.”

For its part, Rite Aid Corp. is focusing on racial equality by investing $2 million to advocate for meaningful progress and sustainable change in U.S. communities through the Rite Aid Foundation.

In its commitment to “combat racism and foster more diverse, inclusive and equitable opportunities in communities,” Rite Aid launched a Racial Equity Awareness and Action Initiative that seeks to drive meaningful progress and sustainable change at this critical juncture.

The initiative will invest in organizations, networks and programs that spark renewed dialogue, courage and action across many voices, stakeholders, sectors and communities. The Rite Aid Foundation will provide initial funding to two organizations, EmbraceRace and United Way, each with a mission, focus and reach that can accelerate progress in key areas, through grants of $1 million to both organizations.

Heyward Donigan

Heyward Donigan

“Racism, injustice and intolerance have no home in the Rite Aid organization or in our communities,” said Heyward Donigan, president and CEO of Rite Aid. “We are committed to reflecting the diversity of the communities we serve. While this is a profoundly sad, difficult and important moment in our country, we also believe hope and progress is possible — one voice, one person, one family and one community at a time. Rite Aid can and will play an important role in the healing process through our support and involvement, and this initiative is the first step toward that goal.”

Walmart, in conjunction with the Walmart Foundation, is committing $100 million over five years to establish a new center for racial equity that will support philanthropic initiatives that align with the nation’s financial, health care, education and criminal justice systems.

Hy-Vee Inc. announced plans to donate $1 million and provide 1 million volunteer hours to organizations supporting racial unity and equality, primarily in the eight states in which it operates, while Albertsons Cos. announced a $5 million donation to social justice organizations as well as those on the front line of the fight for ­equality.

Target Corp., which is headquartered in Minneapolis, announced a commitment of $10 million to advance social justice and support rebuilding and recovery efforts.

Brian Cornell

Brian Cornell

Target chairman and CEO Brian Cornell characterized the aftermath of the Floyd killing by a Minneapolis policeman as “an inflection point” for the city and the nation. “Target stands with black families, communities and team members,” he said. “We’re listening to our team, guests and communities, committed to using our size, scale and resources to help heal and create lasting change.”



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