NEW YORK, United States — Employees of Estée Lauder, one of the world’s largest beauty businesses, called for the ouster of a board member and family heir over his support for President Donald Trump and criticism of the company’s response to the protests against police violence.
In a letter to Chairman William Lauder that was reviewed by Bloomberg News, more than 100 employees and staff asked for the removal of Ronald Lauder over his political donations and concerns about his impact on race relations within the company.
“Ronald Lauder’s involvement with the Estée Lauder Companies is damaging to our corporate values, our relationship with the Black community, our relationship with this company’s Black employees, and this company’s legacy,” the letter said.
Among their grievances are Lauder’s political contributions to President Trump. The son of founders Estee and Joseph Lauder, Ronald Lauder, 76, is a longtime Republican, having served as a diplomat under Ronald Reagan before running for mayor of New York in the 1980s and losing to Rudy Giuliani. Since rejoining Estée Lauder’s board of directors in 2016, he has made more than $1.6 million in political contributions to pro-Trump organizations, according to federal disclosures.
Corporations across industries are trying to calibrate their messaging to employees and customers as American grapples with protests over racism and police brutality. Executives are fumbling for the right words as the world’s attention lingers on nationwide demonstrations that have entered their 10th day.
Nearly all of the world’s 50 largest companies, from Goldman Sachs to Apple, have issued public statements in support of black Americans as of Wednesday. More than $1 billion has been pledged to the NAACP, Black Lives Matter and other organizations.
Many of Estee Lauder’s brands, including Clinique, La Mer and its namesake label, have released short statements on racial inequality in the U.S. without mentioning the ongoing protests. Employees said it’s not enough.
A representative for Estée Lauder didn’t immediately have a comment on the employees’ letter and Ronald Lauder couldn’t be reached. Earlier the company said it would donate $1 million in support of the black community. In the letter, employees ask for Estée Lauder to increase this to $5 million.
The company held a town hall meeting on Thursday that left many workers disgusted and dissatisfied, according to two employees who attended. A number sent emails to senior management, including William Lauder, who spoke at the event, to express dismay that his talk seemed scripted and didn’t address the political contributions.
Several employees told executives that Ronald Lauder’s involvement with the company was damaging its relationship with the black community and its own black workers, according to emails seen by Bloomberg. That was followed by the decision to send management a more formal statement.
By: Kim Bhasin and Gerald Porter Jr.