Clicks Group CEO Vikesh Ramsunder has issued an apology after the health retailer published a TRESemme hair product campaign which portrayed black hair as ‘dry, damaged, and frizzy’, while white natural hair was depicted as ‘normal’.
Ramsunder said Clicks would trade as normal despite the threats to shut down and boycott Clicks stores across the country.
Clicks CEO Vikesh Ramsunder’s apology below:
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 Tresemme, 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 3rd 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.
Over the past weekend, we have convened an extraordinary Board meeting to agree our next steps. This includes prioritising our diversity and inclusion training programme. We will be re-looking at its content, extend it wider and implement with more urgency and focus.
As a long-term advocate for natural hair, Clicks has invested heavily in the natural hair market over the past three years. We work with an extensive list of suppliers – more than 20 – to ensure that we stock more than 40 natural hair care ranges in our stores. Since 2005, we have grown the number of natural hair products on shelf by over 4000%.
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 well-being 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.