| 15.4°C Belfast

Co-op chief condemns George Floyd death

Steve Murrells becomes one of the first major UK bosses to speak out and vows to focus more on improving diversity and stamp out intolerance.

Close

Co-op chief Steve Murrells has spoken out about the death of George Floyd (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Co-op chief Steve Murrells has spoken out about the death of George Floyd (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Co-op chief Steve Murrells has spoken out about the death of George Floyd (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The chief executive of the Co-op has become one of the first high-profile UK chief executives to condemn the death of a black man which led to riots in several US cities.

George Floyd died when a white police officer held him down by pressing a knee into his neck last Monday in Minneapolis.

Steve Murrells, in a post on Twitter, said he wanted to work harder to ensure staff in his UK stores and funeral parlours are not subject to “judgement and discrimination every single day”.

His comments come after chief executives in the US expressed solidarity with protesters and promised to address racism and inequality in workplaces.

Addressing staff, Mr Murrells wrote: “We know we can’t go on like this. A world where people are judged, discriminated against and die due to the colour of their skin is not the world I want, that any of us want. Even though we are not in the USA we all have a part to play.

“Some of you experience judgement and discrimination every single day. Both in work and outside of work.

“I know I can’t get close to knowing what this feels like, but I want you to know that my ears are pinned back, my eyes are open and, as uncomfortable as it may be, I won’t look away. I know this is happening and it’s unacceptable and intolerable. It must change. We can change it.

“The inclusive culture that we, together, are trying to build at the Co-op will only live through actions. Not words alone. There is no doubt we’ve got more to do. We’re well underway but I’m not naive enough to think that we’re even nearly done. We need to go further and faster.”

Close

Thousands of protesters gathered in Trafalgar Square following the death of George Floyd in the US (Dominic Lipinski / PA)

Thousands of protesters gathered in Trafalgar Square following the death of George Floyd in the US (Dominic Lipinski / PA)

PA

Thousands of protesters gathered in Trafalgar Square following the death of George Floyd in the US (Dominic Lipinski / PA)

The Co-op chief’s comments follow similar statements from the US and protests around the globe, including in London.

Randy Garutti, chief executive of fast-food chain Shake Shack, said on Instagram that he was “fully aware of my station in life as a white leader” and the need to use his position for change.

Dara Khosrowshahi, chief executive of Uber, said the company stood in solidarity with the black community and with peaceful protesters, adding the car-sharing firm would donate one million US dollars (£801,000) towards efforts to improve equality in the US criminal justice system.

Rick Smith, chief executive and founder of Taser maker Axon Enterprise, which has seen shares surge since protests escalated, said: “We know that our society faces major, deeply entrenched challenges. We will listen and continue to learn how we can be a part of fixing what is broken.

“We stand for protecting the truth. And protecting life. Everyone deserves to get home safe.”

And Disney’s chairman, chief executive and diversity head said the company would improve its commitment to diversity and inclusion “for as long as it takes to bring about real change”.

Elsewhere, Facebook employees have been putting pressure on founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerburg to condemn the actions of police, after reports that he spoke to President Donald Trump on Friday.

PA