C.H. Robinson, other companies call for change after police killing in Minnesota

With C.H. Robinson Worldwide’s (NASDAQ: CHRW) headquarters in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, the CEO of the 3PL is speaking out publicly about the racially charged events in Minneapolis, just 12 miles away.

Bob Biesterfeld, the president and CEO of CHRW, has posted to LinkedIn a letter he sent to Robinson employees about the death of George Floyd, who died while in custody of the Minneapolis police. In the letter, Biesterfeld discusses not only the death of Floyd but also the protests that followed.

He opens the letter starkly: “I reach out to you today with a heavy heart.”

“Today, we grieve with the family and friends of George Floyd, and we grieve with our communities,” Biesterfeld writes. 

Floyd died Monday after an encounter with Minneapolis police that ended with a police officer holding him down with his knee on Floyd’s neck, despite his pleas that he could not breath. That has set off a cascading series of protests that have turned violent, starting in Minneapolis but spreading elsewhere. 

In the letter, Biesterfeld, who became CEO in 2019, said he has worked to bring the company’s “Robinson EDGE values forward as part of my leadership mantra for our organization.”

The EDGE values, spelled out on the company’s website, are: E, for Evolve Constantly; D, for Deliver Excellence; G, for Grow Together; and E, for Embrace Integrity. 

“As I’ve watched these events unfold, I am even more committed to ensuring that I, as a leader, and C.H. Robinson as a company, stand firmly in our values. It should go without saying that racism and violence are not tolerated,” Biesterfeld wrote.

Biesterfeld and C.H. Robinson were signatories to a pledge signed Wednesday, the day after Floyd’s death, with several dozen Minnesota-based individuals and companies. The statement was led by Children’s Minnesota, a pediatric health care system. 

The Children’s Minnesota statement says it expects that an investigation of Floyd’s death “will lead to justice and accountability.”

“It is hard to watch the video of the event as it is clearly evident Mr. Floyd was not treated with the dignity and respect he was due as a human being,” the statement said. “We are committed to taking steps to eliminate the repeat of events like this in our society.”

It concludes: “Change has to start today, and it needs to start with us.”

Among the other nationally recognized signers of the statement are commodity trader Cargill, US Bank and the Minnesota Wild hockey team. 

Biesterfeld said CHRW will undertake two specific actions. Beginning in the fall, all employees will participate in “inclusivity training to help reinforce the role we all play in creating an inclusive environment,” he wrote. The company will also introduce “Employee Resource Groups as a new way to connect and support employees.” 

“Without our people living those EDGE values every day, it’s nothing more than a slogan or a poster on a wall,” Biesterfeld wrote in concluding the letter. “Thank you for representing our values every day.”