Like COVID-19, Racism Is a Virus We Need To Eradicate, Says VF CEO

Timberland, Vans and The North Face parent VF Corp. is taking a stand against racial injustice as national unrest mounts following the death of George Floyd.

In a message sent May 30 to all employees, VF chairman, president and CEO Steve Rendle called Floyd’s death “tragic” and “stomach-churning” — and likened racism to the coronavirus pandemic.

“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,” Rendle wrote. “Racism is not welcome at VF Corporation. It never has been and never will be. And while we as a company can’t create a vaccine to eradicate racism from our planet, we can do our part to lead with purpose, inspire others with our actions, break down racial and ethnic barriers and be part of the solution.”

Rendle additionally announced a number of concrete steps VF is taking to support its staff through these challenging times. The Inclusion & Diversity team is creating virtual venues for team members to gather, discuss and express emotions, with the company’s employee resources groups to elevate the topic “to a higher degree” internally. Further, the Executive Inclusion & Diversity Council will be employed to help VF determine what actions it should take to support workers.

“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,” said Rendle.

A 46-year-old unarmed black man, Floyd was killed on May 25 in Minneapolis by white police officer Derek Chauvin. His death has reignited the national conversation around police brutality and systemic racism — leading to protests from coast to coast.

These protests have been peaceful for the majority, but some looting has occurred, particularly during the late-night hours. VF has been among many industry players to experience looting in recent days — with Vans stores impacted over the weekend in Philadelphia and Santa Monica, Calif. Many companies, in the fashion and footwear space, such as Nordstrom, Nike and Fila, are speaking out about racial injustice in the wake of Floyd’s killing — including both those that have traditionally avoided addressing social issues as well as those who are consistently vocal.

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