• Apple, Nike and Google among big companies making statements on racial injustice.
  • Cause marketing heats up as protests sweep nation.
  • Apple, Amazon and Target halt or slow operations amid demonstrations.

The death of African American George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer has triggered protests in multiple U.S. cities. While mostly peaceful, demonstrations grew violent in some cities, promoting the deployment of the National Guard as some protestors set vehicles and buildings on fire, engaged in acts of vandalism and looted stores.

Some of America's largest corporations have responded to the protests, using their influence and ubiquity among consumers to voice their opinions.There are currently three ways large U.S. businesses are responding to social upheaval:

Support for Racial Equality and #BLM

CEOs and company press teams are busy writing and releasing carefully-worded letters and statements against racial bigotry and injustice.

Twitter, currently locked in a tussle with President Trump, changed its official account bio to #BlackLivesMatter. U.S. Google & YouTube homepages said, "We stand in support of racial equality, and all those who search for it.""For those feeling grief, anger, sadness & fear, you are not alone," said CEO Sundar Pichai in a statement.

Apple CEO Tim Cook addressed the situation in memo to employees that has been seen by the press. "Right now, there is a pain deeply etched in the soul of our nation and in the hearts of millions," he wrote. "To stand together, we must stand up for one another, and recognize the fear, hurt, and outrage rightly provoked by the senseless killing of George Floyd and a much longer history of racism."

Amazon/Twitter
Amazon/Twitter.

Amazon released a statement saying "the inequitable and brutal treatment" of African Americans in the U.S. must stop. Nike released a video that replaced its iconic "Just Do It" slogan with "Don't Do It" and Adidas backed it.

Looking at it from a business perspective, such messaging from companies is known as cause-related marketing, and it works despite possible backlash from some groups. The term was invented by American Express in 1983 when it launched a campaign to raise money for the Statue of Liberty's restoration. Sometimes the marketing is tone-deaf (think Pepsi's Kendall Jenner ad) or contradicts a company's values in some way, exposing the firm to ridicule. For example, Amazon was asked in a tweet by the American Civil Liberties Union if it will now "stop selling face recognition surveillance technology that supercharges police abuse."

Donations

Apple says it's making donations to various groups including the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit organization based in Montgomery, Alabama that provides legal representation to marginalized communities. The tech giant will also be matching two-for-one all employee donations via Benevity. Google's YouTube said it is pledging $1 million in support of "efforts to address social injustice." Uber is donating $1 million to the Equal Justice Initiative and The Center for Policing Equity, said CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

Big players in the music industry are observing "Black Out Tuesday" by stopping business operations on June 2 and making donations. Atlantic Record is donating to to Black Lives Matter and other organizations. Interscope Geffen A&M (IGA) is giving to various that provide legal aid and "charities focused on creating economic empowerment in the Black community." Capitol Music Group is donating to non-profit Color of Change.

Scaling Back Operations

The U.S. is in the middle of reopening its economy, but some companies are choosing to scale back operations in areas seeing protests. Amazon is reducing deliveries and changing routes in some areas, Apple is keeping most of its recently reopened stores shut, and Target is adjusting stores hours or temporarily closing some locations. Walmart closed hundreds of stores one hour early on Sunday, but most are slated to reopen. Nordstrom temporarily closed all its stores on Sunday.