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Tractor Supply Co. Backtracks on DEI Roles and Goals

Tractor Supply Co. Backtracks on DEI Roles and Goals

Jane J. Pushkar/AP

A sign for Tractor Supply Company is seen in Pittsburgh, on February 2, 2023.

New York

Tractor Supply Company has scrapped diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives as part of what the retail chain says is a push to distance itself from “non-business activities” after a conservative backlash from some of its customer base.

In a press release issued Thursday, Tractor Supply, which bills itself as the nation’s “largest rural lifestyle retailer,” said it will stop sponsoring activities like “pride festivals and voting drives” and will reduce its DEI roles and “retire current DEI “. goals while ensuring a respectful environment.

“We heard from customers that we disappointed them,” the company said. “We took these comments very seriously.”

The shift comes less than a month after right-wing commentator Robbie Starbuck attacked the company’s LGBTQ-inclusive stance and DEI hiring initiatives in a series of posts on X. Starbuck, who in 2022 launched a failed bid for Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District, called on customers to boycott tractor supply and call With it that it Institutional leadership.

After announcing the policy pivot, Starbuck addressed X again, calling the move a “huge victory” and “the single biggest win for the county in our lifetime.”

One reason for the conservative backlash is the fact that Tractor Supply failed to tailor its DEI policy to the culture in which it operates, Sean Harper, a professor of business, public policy and education at the University of Southern California, told CNN.

brentwood, The Tennessee-based company, which bills itself as the largest supporter of the National FFA, a nonprofit organization that supports agricultural education, has deep ties to rural communities in 49 states. Tractor Supply’s inclusion policies had to be attuned to this specific cultural context, Harper says.

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“You can’t say you’re going to try to do at Tractor Supply what they’re doing at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California — it certainly won’t work,” he said. “This is what I call ‘centered DEI.’ I would say that starting with a focus on expanding opportunities for low-income people, expanding access to agriculture for women in rural contexts, and helping people understand how more women and more people of color in the agriculture industry benefits Everyone and help them understand that diversifying the agricultural industry, with women and people of color, does not necessarily entail reducing opportunities for white male farmers.

However, activists and experts say Tractor Supply’s decline is a blow to civil rights and LGBTQ+ protections for employees and customers.

“Homophobia, transphobia, sexism, workplace sexual harassment, disability discrimination, sizeism, and racism are not going to go away on their own,” Harper said. “Without good policies and programs within companies, the risk is that these old problems will get worse. There will be more conflict between employees and customers who represent different, diverse groups.”

Tractor Supply also said it will “no longer send data to the Human Rights Campaign,” one of the largest LGBT advocacy groups in the United States.

It was one of more than 1,300 companies to participate in the Human Rights Council’s Corporate Equality Index, a benchmarking survey and report that measures policies and practices related to LGBTQ+ equality in the workplace. In 2023, the company received a near-perfect score of 95/100 for putting workplace protections and benefits in place with LGBTQ+ employees in mind, providing inclusive training for workers, and engaging with the LGBTQ+ community.

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“Tractor Supply is turning its back on its neighbors with this short-sighted decision,” Eric Bloom, vice president of programs and corporate advocacy at the Human Rights Campaign, told CNN in a statement Saturday. “Members of the LGBTQ+ community live in every zip code in this country, including rural communities. We are shoppers, farmers, veterans and agriculture students. Businesses from all industries work closely with us to make sure their employees and customers are respected, valued and able to get the job done for the benefit of their workforce and shareholders.” That’s why Tractor Supply — and most of the nation’s largest employers — have worked with us for years to create inclusive policies and practices. Caving in to right-wing extremists will only harm the very people these companies depend on.

The reversal of the policy forms part of a broader trend of corporate hesitation about including the LGBT community. In the face of an anti-LGBT backlash that threatens corporate bottom lines, many brands have backed away from their support for inclusion.

Last year, Bud Light’s partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney sparked transphobic backlash and a months-long boycott of the beer brand, which has continued throughout. Failed to take a firm stance To support Mulvaney and the transgender community. The boycott and subsequent lukewarm response cost parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev a significant loss $1.4 billion in salesas well as its credibility with A major LGBTQ+ non-profit.

Last month, the retailer The target said it would limit How many stores will carry her adult pride themed collection after Boycott by right-wing activists Last summer led to a sharp decline in sales.

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While bowing to consumer backlash may seem like the safest strategy for recovering lost revenue in the boycott, it may also be shortsighted. Harper says few companies are considering the potential Cost of litigation From customers and employees.

“A lot of money is wasted on settlements or compensation for discrimination and harassment,” he said. “I want companies to think not just about sales, but also about litigation costs, as well as reputational costs. These are the parts that business leaders don’t think about when they’re dealing with DEI.