Lloyd’s of London, the world’s oldest insurance market, and pub chain Greene King said in statements late Wednesday that they would take steps to make their businesses more racially inclusive and provide financial support to black and minority ethnic groups.
“Lloyd’s has a long and rich history dating back over 330 years, but there are some aspects of our history that we are not proud of,” the company, which insured slave ships, said in a statement. “In particular, we are sorry for the role played by the Lloyd’s market in the eighteenth and nineteenth Century slave trade. This was an appalling and shameful period of English history, as well as our own, and we condemn the indefensible wrongdoing that occurred,” it added.
The company said it values an “inclusive culture” and has committed to a number of new diversity initiatives, including a program to attract and retain black and minority ethnic workers. It said it will review employee policies and the way it presents its history, and provide an undisclosed amount of money to organizations promoting opportunity for black and minority ethnic groups.
Greene King founder Benjamin Greene was compensated by the UK government when he relinquished slaves on his sugar cane plantations in the West Indies, according to University College London. The money he was paid would be worth nearly £3.6 million ($4.5 million) today, according to the university.
“It is inexcusable that one of our founders profited from slavery and argued against its abolition in the 1800s,” Greene King CEO, Nick Mackenzie said in a statement. “Today, I am proud that we employ 38,000 people across the UK from all backgrounds and that racism and discrimination have no place at Greene King,” he added.
Major companies around the world are also grappling with how to address racial injustice. Many have pledged to increase minority hiring and some have donated to charitable organizations.
A handful have even taken steps to acknowledge past racist behavior or problematic branding. The corporate owners of Cream of Wheat, Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s have pledged to review or overhaul the brands, which have long been criticized for perpetuating racial stereotypes.