Tractor Supply Yields To Anti-Woke Backlash

Rural lifestyle retailer Tractor Supply Company apparently is afraid of going the way of other brands that have come under fire recently for appearing to be liberal. 

The company issued a statement on its website Thursday -- which it also shared on social media -- stating that it is eliminating its diversity, equity and inclusion jobs at the company. 

“The changes come amid a growing wave of anti-DEI sentiment in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2023 to strike down affirmative action in colleges,” according to CNBC. “Experts at the time predicted the ruling could have implications for corporate hiring or recruiting. Companies, including Starbucks, Disneyand Targethave faced legal challenges over DEI initiatives for LGBTQ customers and employees. In February 2023, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer dropped race-based eligibility requirements for a fellowship program designed for college students of Black, Latino and Native American descent, the Associated Press reported.”



The company statement said the retailer will also no longer submit data to the Human Rights Campaign and will withdraw carbon emissions goals. 

“The Fortune 500 company has been nationally recognized as an inclusive and diverse workplace, including last year in Bloomberg’s Gender Equality Index and Newsweek’s inaugural list of America’s Greatest Workplaces for Diversity,” according to NPR. “ But it recently became the target of conservative ire for that very reason, as the latest in a growing series of retailers to face backlash over — and ultimately walk back — its DEI initiatives.”

The statement says the company will “further focus on rural America priorities including ag education, animal welfare, veteran causes and being a good neighbor and stop sponsoring nonbusiness activities like pride festivals and voting campaigns.”

Robby Starbuck, a music video director and Republican who ran unsuccessfully to represent Tennessee's 5th Congressional District in 2022, launched the campaign against Tractor Supply earlier this month, according to NPR.

“These changes mark a stunning shift in policy and messaging from Tractor Supply, which once touted its diversity and inclusion efforts,” according to The Associated Press. “Just earlier this month, Tractor Supply President and CEO Hal Lawton maintained that the company remained ‘very consistent’ in how it approaches its own DEI and ESG — environmental, social and governance — programs for a number of years.”

The decision to abandon minority communities “has ignited a vigorous debate about the role of corporations in fostering inclusive environments and the sway of political extremism over corporate policy,” according to The Advocate.  

The company has disabled commenting on its Facebook and Instagram pages and CEO Hal Lawton has changed his X profile to private. In an attempt to erase its diversity legacy, Tractor Supply removed some DEI-related content from its website, per The Advocate

The Human Rights Campaign denounced the move, with Eric Bloem, vice president of programs and corporate advocacy, criticizing the company’s decision in a statement to The Advocate.

“Tractor Supply Co is turning its back on their own neighbors with this shortsighted decision. LGBTQ+ people live in every zip code in this country, including rural communities. Companies from every industry work closely with us to be sure their employees and customers are respected, valued and can get the job done for their workforce and shareholders. Caving to far-right extremists is only going to hurt the same folks that these businesses rely on.”

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