Last month, I wrote about a groundbreaking statement from the Business Roundtable, an association of over 180 chief executive officers of America’s leading companies, who collectively signed a promise to become more caring and compassionate. The group of elite corporate executives, led by JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, claimed that they wanted to significantly change and improve their business ethics. The CEOs said that the days of putting their shareholders first were over. Profits for investors, in their companies, would now take a back seat to the needs of their employees, the communities where they conduct business and the vendors who provide products and services.
The ink is barely dry on the pledge to be more empathetic and—already—one of its wealthiest signatories has already reneged on his promise. Multibillionaire Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon—which owns the upscale Whole Foods grocery store chain—has broken his promise.
One of the principal parts of the contract states:
“Investing in our employees. This starts with compensating them fairly and providing important benefits. It also includes supporting them through training and education that help develop new skills for a rapidly changing world. We foster diversity and inclusion, dignity and respect.”
Whole Foods informed employees—
who fall into the classification of working between 20 and 30 hours per week—that they’ll lose access to the company’s health plan effective January 1, 2020. After losing their benefits, some employees may be eligible for coverage by the Affordable Care Act Marketplace. However, Whole Foods won’t have to contribute.
Senator Elizabeth Warren immediately promulgated Bezos’ decision to cut medical benefits on Twitter.
Jeff Bezos committed to providing his employees “important benefits”—right before Whole Foods cut health care benefits for hundreds of employees.
A spokesperson for the company told Business Insider that it was taking the steps “to better meet the needs of our business and create a more equitable and efficient scheduling model.” The Whole Foods representative added that “no jobs are being eliminated as a result of this change.”
Sadly, this is not a shock to anyone who follows the actions of corporations and their top executives. In today’s culture, consumers and employees want to be associated with companies and products that are ethical, socially responsible and environmentally friendly. Employees, such as those who work at Wayfair, are quick to protest their own company if they believe that the corporations act contrary to their personal ideals. Twitter warriors routinely call for the boycott of organizations paradoxical to their values. Despite depictions on television and the movies, CEOs at large global corporations are smart and savvy. They know it’s in their best interest to say what their customers and employees want to hear. Signing the agreement to be better was the perfect public relations stunt to earn kudos for their supposed new “woke” view.
Since there were no mechanisms in place to oversee or enforce their bold claims, there is no substance behind it. Therefore, when the opportunity is presented to continue business as usual, they’ll revert to that default mode. I predict we will see more companies deviating from their promises than upholding them.
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