Amazon on Wednesday announced $10 million in new cash donations to 11 organizations “working to bring about social justice and improve the lives of black and African Americans,” the company said.
The donations follow social media posts in recent days by Amazon and other companies expressing solidarity with the black community amid an uprising across the country over ongoing racial injustice, sparked by the death of George Floyd. Four Minneapolis police officers have been charged in his death.
Amazon is also making a grant to the company’s Black Employee Network (BEN) affinity group to “fund local organizations that support education and racial equality initiatives in communities across the country where our employees live and work.”
Angelina Howard, president of BEN, said in a company blog post the employee group worked “hand-in-hand” with Amazon leaders to select organizations that will receive support. They are: the ACLU Foundation, Brennan Center for Justice, Equal Justice Initiative, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, NAACP, National Bar Association, National Museum of African American History and Culture, National Urban League, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, UNCF (United Negro College Fund) and Year Up.
“We will continue these conversations about how Amazon can support employees and the entire black community beyond these tragic recent events,” Howard said.
Amazon raised the Pan-African Flag between two of its Seattle headquarters buildings in February in an event to mark Black History Month. Top executives gave speeches and posed for pictures with members of BEN.
Amazon continues to come under criticism for selling surveillance technologies to police departments, as well as the lack of diversity among its management and leadership ranks.
At the end of 2019, 26.5% of Amazon’s U.S. workforce identified as black, up from 24.5% at the end of 2018, according to recently updated demographic disclosures. Among Amazon’s U.S. management ranks, 8.3% identified as black, up from 7.2% in 2018. None of the 22 people on Amazon’s senior leadership team is black.
Amazon shareholders, meeting virtually last month, rejected a proposal to publicly report the rate at which people are promoted in the company with details on rates for different gender and racial identities. The company’s board of directors recommended a vote against the proposal, pointing to a range of recruitment, training and promotion practices already in place. The board noted specifically the role affinity groups like BEN play in recruiting and retention.
Starbucks chief operating officer Rosalind Brewer joined Amazon’s board in 2019 after a 2018 decision to consider diverse candidates for future board openings. The board had previously opposed a shareholder resolution requiring such consideration.
(Article written by Benjamin Romano)