IN FULL | Open letter from Clicks Group CEO Vikesh Ramsunder
Clicks Group CEO Vikesh Ramsunder penned an open letter on Monday, apologising for the hurt and anger ignited by a hair advert that saw some stores trashed and others closed as protests swept across the country.
Read the letter in full below:
Open Letter from Clicks Group CEO, Vikesh Ramsunder
7 September 2020
As Group CEO of Clicks, I am deeply disappointed that we allowed insensitive and offensive images to be published on our website. I apologise unreservedly for the hurt and anger these images have caused.
The emotive responses of our customers have been mirrored by our employees and management teams. And whilst the images and content were provided to us by our supplier TRESemmé, this does not absolve us from blame. This is why we took accountability for this error of judgment by issuing a public apology and swiftly removing the offensive material from our website.
Over the past few days, I have reflected deeply on what it means to be a proudly South African corporate citizen and have consulted widely with diverse stakeholders to assist me in developing a comprehensive response to make amends for our error.
Already, the negligent employees have been suspended, and we have engaged the supplier, who has now also issued an apology. This incident has highlighted the need to audit all of our third-party (and our own) promotional material for any implicit or explicit bias, as well as the need for diversity and inclusivity training for all of our head office employees. This will be urgently implemented.
As a company, we cannot change what happened, but we are learning from this.Vikesh Ramsunder, Clicks CEO
Over the past weekend, we have convened an extraordinary board meeting to agree [on] our next steps. This includes prioritising our diversity and inclusion training programme. We will be relooking at its content, extend it wider and implement with more urgency and focus.
Clicks offers product ranges for all hair types, including building the natural hair market over the past three years to offer even more choice. We have worked with an extensive list of suppliers – more than 20 - to ensure that we stock more than 40 natural hair care ranges in our stores.
As a company, we cannot change what happened, but we are learning from this. We are committed to effecting real, systemic change across our business that reflects our pride in being a truly South African company. We have done a lot in terms of transformation. This issue has clearly highlighted that we have a lot more to do.
We appeal to all stakeholders to engage with us so that we redress actions to demonstrate our commitment to diversity and inclusion. We will take the necessary precautionary steps to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our customers and our employees. This includes dealing with the threat of the disruption of our business activities and intimidation of our customers and employees.
Members of the EFF, led by deputy president Floyd Shivambu, protested outside the Clicks retail store in Sandton City as part of a nationwide protest on September 7 2020. This comes after the retail group released a TRESemmé advert on its website that has been condemned by the EFF as racist. Meanwhile, police are investigating several incidents across the country where stores were vandalised.