Brian Cornell, President and CEO of Target Corporation.
Anjali Sundaram | UKTN
When George Floyd was killed a year ago, Target CEO Brian Cornell said he was shaken by the murder. He was troubled that it had happened so close to the company’s headquarters in his hometown.
For the head of retail, it was personal.
“It could’ve been one of my Target team,” he said, recounting his thoughts as he watched the video of Floyd taking his last breath.
Cornell lifted the curtain on Tuesday on the Minneapolis-based retailer’s response to the murder and how that prompted it to step up the company’s diversity and fairness efforts. He spoke in a high-profile interview with former Ultra Beauty CEO Mary Dillon, which was hosted by the Economic Club of Chicago. The event, originally scheduled for last Tuesday, was postponed before the verdict in the murder trial of former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin on the same day. Chauvin was convicted of all three counts in Floyd’s murder.
As a young boy, Cornell grew up in a diverse neighborhood in Queens, New York, and was raised by a single mother. As an adult, he and his family lived in Asia and Europe. These personal experiences inspired his respect for women as leaders and the importance of cultural diversity, he said.
Still, he said Floyd’s murder was apart and made him do more.
“I recognize that it is time to take it to the next level and that as CEO we need to be the head of diversity and inclusion for the company,” he said. “We have to be the role models who drive change and our voice is important. And we have to make sure that we represent our business principles, our values, our business purpose on the issues that are important to our teams.”
Last May, in the days immediately following, Cornell said Target had struck a special committee to look at steps the company could take to make its workforce, senior management and business practices better reflect diversity. from the country. He said Target was considering how it could support and provide advancement opportunities for black employees, play a role in communities and “use our voice at the national level as we impact civic discussions and policies.”
Target is one of many companies that have pledged to do more to advance racial fairness after Floyd’s murder sparked protests in major cities and around the world. Among its commitments, the big box retailer said it would increase the representation of black employees in its workforce by 20% over the next year. The company has created a new program to help black entrepreneurs develop, test and scale products for sale at mass retailers like Target. And he has pledged to spend more than $ 2 billion with black-owned businesses by 2025, from construction companies building or renovating stores to advertising agencies marketing his brand.
Cornell praised the diverse workforce at Target, which has more than 350,000 employees, including its board of directors and management team. More than half of its approximately 1,900 stores are run by female store managers and more than a third are run by people of color, Cornell said.
He said he wanted the retailer to be a leader and was especially aware last week during the trial verdict that “America’s eyes and the eyes of the world were on Minneapolis.”
“For many of us, we saw this verdict as a sign of progress, a sign of responsibility, but also a recognition that the work is just beginning,” he said.