Bath & Body Works slams possible lesson: Charity CEO

The head of a non-profit civil rights organization receiving donations from Bath & Body Works said she hoped reviewing the company’s Black History Month collection would become a learning experience.

The home and body fragrance maker caught the eye on social media earlier this month when it unveiled its latest collection featuring some of its popular products in new mudcloth-inspired packaging. traditional african.

A Bath & Body Works spokesperson said in an emailed statement that the company “has worked with internal and external black designers” as well as black associates and clients to inform their approach to the collection. However, some were put off by the products – which included a ‘unity’ sandalwood and coconut hand soap, an ‘enhanced’ teak wood body spray and a scented body cream. with “confident” champagne.

“It seems like a lazy way to try to connect with a really deep, complex community,” said Ashley Yates, a black activist and media director for Planting Justice, an Oakland-based nonprofit.

The company’s rollout of the collection was accompanied by an announcement that it would donate $500,000 – less than 0.01% of its $7.88 billion net sales in 2021 – to the National Urban League and the Columbus Urban League, an affiliate of the National Urban League in Ohio’s capital. close to the company’s headquarters.

“We respect everyone’s perspective on this sensitive issue and hope we all learn from the experience,” Columbus Urban League president and CEO Stephanie Hightower said in a mailed statement. electronic.

Hightower said the company has been an “active supporter” of its organization over the past decade and donates to “Empowerment Day”, its annual flagship event. She said the company’s associates were also “frequent and committed” volunteers and had helped with the organization’s COVID-19 vaccination campaigns.

The National Urban League did not respond to a request for comment.

Yates, the activist, thinks more should have been done to prepare for the launch of the collection.

“I think if they had made it a little clearer about the steps they’ve taken to engage with the community, (it) probably would have gone a little better for them,” the 36-year-old said. “Instead of just throwing it over there.”

After the death of George Floyd sparked an avalanche of protests against racism and police brutality in 2020, many companies have pledged to diversify their workforce, support minority-owned businesses and donate to community organizations. But some analysts say many of them are struggling to find the right tone.

“There’s this heavy weight of expectation on their shoulders that they have to report on most kinds of social issues,” said Dipanjan Chatterjee, brand analyst at Forrester Research. “The option of being somehow neutral or sticking your head in the sand doesn’t bode well anymore.”

“But they’re not extremely comfortable knowing what to do,” Chatterjee said. “So they are wrong on many fronts.”

Bath & Body Works announced on Wednesday that its CEO, Andrew Meslow, would step down in May, citing health reasons. Its Black History Month collection is currently listed on its website.

“Bath & Body Works is committed to fostering a culture that is inclusive, embraces social change, takes action and is responsible,” the company spokesperson said. “We appreciate the feedback we have received, and we will continue to listen carefully to our associates, customers and community, and use that feedback to shape our future efforts.”


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