As activists are speaking out about the the need to support statements with concrete actions, Columbia takes a step in the right direction. In a memo sent to all employees yesterday, the executive team announced the closure of all North American Columbia stores for two hours today, June 4, 2020, during the memorial service for George Floyd, scheduled to happen at 1 p.m. Central Time at a sanctuary at North Central University in Minneapolis. Currently, Columbia has reopened 95 of its stores in the U.S.; This closure impacts approximately 800 employees.
"The murder of George Floyd was a tragedy, underpinned by the corrosive effects of institutional racism,” reads the memo. “That’s why tomorrow, June 4, 2020, we will close all of our North American stores for two hours during his memorial services. We stand against racism in all its forms, but in this moment, we want to be clear that we are proud to say black lives matter. George Floyd’s life mattered.”
The memo also states that Columbia executives have taken a few days to create a plan as to how to address racism, and admits that while they don’t have all the answers, they are taking additional steps: Columbia will be donating to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Marshall Project. It will also double match any donation (up to $1,000) of any employee to an anti-racist nonprofit cause. The memo included a promise to help people exercise the right to vote and continue to speak out against injustice.
A few days after the murder of Floyd, Columbia posted a message from CEO Tim Boyle on social media channels that said in part, “We stand together with all victims of racism and all who speak out and act against racial injustice.”
“As employees and Americans, we are bearing witness to history," says Joleen Ong, sustainable manufacturing manager at Columbia. "The closing of stores during George Floyd’s memorial sends a clear signal that this is not ‘business as usual’. I admire Columbia for using their power as a major company in the outdoor industry to speak out and explicitly say that black lives matter, as well as their earnest approach to addressing racial injustice as an employer. It’s empowering for employees to feel that we’re all in this together, and that speaking truth to power is just as important as business.”