Add Chick-fil-A to the list of companies being drawn into the nation's culture wars.
The New York Times reports today - not coincidentally, the beginning of Pride Month - that "Chick-fil-A drew fierce criticism this week from conservatives calling out the fast-food chain for its diversity, equity and inclusion policy and questioning the hiring of an executive to be in charge of such efforts."
The critics "rebuked Chick-fil-A, pointing to a corporate policy on its website that details the company’s focus on 'ensuring equal access,' 'valuing differences,' and 'creating a culture of belonging,' under the title, 'Committed to being Better at Together.'
"Critics also singled out the chain’s hiring of Erick McReynolds to head its D.E.I. efforts."
The Times writes that "Wade Miller, an executive director for Center for Renewing America, a conservative think tank, said on Twitter that he could no longer support the company as a customer: 'Everything good must come to an end.'
"Jeff Clark, a former Justice Department official who was implicated in former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, said on Twitter that Chick-fil-A’s policy was 'disappointing.'
"'Chick-fil-A has gone woke,' wrote Ian Miles Cheong, a right-wing critic with 625,000 Twitter followers. The conservative commentator Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA shared a similar sentiment with his 2.2 million followers."
However, the Times writes that while Chick-fil-A has not yet commented on the controversy, "it was unclear why Chick-fil-A was only drawing criticism now for its D.E.I. efforts, since the company has long had such a policy in place. As for Mr. McReynolds, company records show that he had been the company’s vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion since at least 2020."
The Times also reports that "in an internal report, Chick-fil-A said that in 2020 the commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion efforts 'took on special significance for us as we proactively pursued new ways to work against racism, systemic or subtle, throughout the communities we serve.'
"The report, which does not explicitly refer to the social justice protests from that year, said that the company held dozens of listening sessions 'to better understand and address racial injustice.'
"Those efforts informed the company’s plans 'to address racial injustice,' the report said."
- KC's View:
Chick-fil-A, of course, has long been "a darling of conservatives" for its approach to various cultural issues, though it has had to recalibrate some of its positions in recent years in response to a diversifying workforce and customer base - it was smart business to do so.
Certain positions, like remaining closed on Sundays, have remained sacrosanct. To which I say, good for them. As someone wiser than I once said, ethics are only ethics if they cost you something.
I started this story by saying that Chick-fil-A has to be added to the list of companies being drawn into the nation's culture wars. I feel the same way about MNB - while some would prefer I not write about these stories, the fact is that I don't go looking for this stuff. The intersection of business and the culture wars keeps coming to me.
There are days that I wonder if I've awakened in an alternative universe, in which companies such as Chick-fil-A and Disney suddenly have become symbols of evil and godlessness.
I don't understand the world anymore. It apparently is a place where "ensuring equal access" and "valuing differences" and "creating a culture of belonging" and "committed to being better at together" are bad things.
Could it be because that means that the equal access is being ensured for everyone, not just certain people?
I would imagine that in this environment, Coca-Cola would be blasted in certain hysterical circles if it ran a commercial featuring a song containing the refrain, "I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony."
Here's the bottom line, apparently. If, in your company, you value differences among your employees, if you want everyone to feel like they belong, if you are committed to being active about inclusiveness, be careful. The villagers, armed with torches and pitchforks and misinformation, will be coming for you next.