Coca-Cola’s trying to get it right.
To that end, you may recall, the soft drink company made headlines last month with a seminar encouraging staff to “be less white.”
Amid an online blowback, host LinkedIn removed the video teaching Caucasians to lessen themselves.
For Coke’s part, the company explained the video wasn’t “a focus,” nor was it required.
— Chris Pandolfo (@ChrisCPandolfo) February 20, 2021
But don’t get Coca-Cola wrong — it’s still fizzy and awash in social justice.
As reported by The New York Times, at the end of January, newly-hired corporate general counsel Bradley Gayton issued a letter designating a change to practices regarding U.S. law firms.
Longtime Ford In-House Leader Bradley Gayton Leaving for Coca-Cola: Ford associate general John Mellen is stepping up to serve as the carmaker's next top lawyer. https://t.co/QNUjeWPoqd pic.twitter.com/u96nHZOPON
— Jena Leibowitz (@Jena_ALM) July 20, 2020
The new policy: Coke will require firms it hires to meet racial quotas.
Those which don’t comply will be hit with reduced rates.
Bradley made it clear — enough is enough:
“Quite simply, we are no longer interested in discussing motivations, programs, or excuses for little to no progress — it’s the results that we are demanding and will measure going forward.”
And don’t think they’ll just be assuming everyone’s in line. Per the Times, America’s prime maker of carbonated goodness will be scrutinizing how skin color is scattered:
Coke said it will require quarterly reporting about the makeup of legal teams that do work for it and self identify as American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian, Black, women, Hispanic/Latinx, LGBTQ, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander or persons with disabilities. For those working on new matters for Coke, “at least 30 percent of each of billed associate and partner time will be from diverse attorneys, and of such amounts at least half will be from Black attorneys.”
As for firms that miss the melanin mandate, they’ll be served a 30% reduction in dough.
— Bradley M. Gayton (@GaytonBradley) January 28, 2021
Repeat offenders may be counted out of future work.
Speaking to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Bradley said he hopes other companies follow Coke’s lead.
Thomas Jefferson School of Law Professor Meera Deo — who focuses on diversity issues — sees the soft drink seller’s stance as something special:
“I haven’t seen something as clear and direct as what Coca-Cola has done today.”
According to a 2019 report by the National Association for Law Placement, the racial makeup of law firms doesn’t generally reflect that of the nation.
Per the survey, only about a quarter of associates were nonwhite.
Less than 5% were black.
But Coke’s pouring itself into a racial revamp.
And its efforts go beyond attorney billing.
Last year, Chief Executive James Quincey vowed to double Coke’s purchases from black-owned businesses over the next half-decade.
Back to Bradley, his letter observed that years of summits, action plans, scored cards, and committees “are not working.”
And now — it seems — if you’re not a law firm minding your P’s and Q’s…and shades of skin — you may not be working either.
For those who want an accounting of Coke as it takes account of others: Of its roughly 240 global legal staffers, 10% are Hispanic, 18% are Asian, and 23% are black.
Did you expect less? Probably not. After all, Coke is the Real Thing.
Hence, the company’s asking of its law firms the same it recently asked of its employees: Be less white.
— Christina Sommers (@CHSommers) February 19, 2021
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