British insurance giant Lloyd’s of London apologized for its role in the Atlantic slave trade amid an international uproar over systemic racism.
Lloyd’s said it was sorry for propping up the slave industry in the 18th and 19th centuries, which it called “an appalling and shameful period of English history, as well as our own.” The company was a dominant provider of insurance for enslaved people and the ships that transported them.
“At Lloyd’s we understand that we cannot always be proud of our past,” the 334-year-old firm said in a statement. “In acknowledging our own history, we also remain committed to focusing on the actions we can take today to shape our future into one that we can truly be proud to stand by.”
Lloyd’s pledged several actions to make up for its checkered past, including giving financial support to charities promoting inclusion and opportunity for black people and other ethnic minorities. The company said it will also invest in recruiting and retaining people of color, and review its employee policies and “organizational artefacts” to make sure they are “explicitly non-racist.”
The move came amid a reckoning with racism and the legacy of slavery following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which sparked protests in the US, the UK and other countries. Lloyd’s posted its apology on its website last week, but it wasn’t widely reported until Wednesday.
Lloyd’s was one of nine UK companies that benefitted directly or indirectly from the British government’s efforts to compensate slave owners when slavery was abolished in 1833, according to The Telegraph. Simon Fraser, one of Lloyd’s founder subscribers, received the equivalent of nearly 400,000 British pounds to give up a Dominica estate where enslaved people worked, the newspaper reported.
Greene King, a British pub chain whose founder also received a hefty payout when abolition took hold, also apologized for its links to slavery in a statement to The Telegraph.
“It is inexcusable that one of our founders profited from slavery and argued against its abolition in the 1800s,” Greene King chief executive Nick Mackenzie told the paper. “We don’t have all the answers, so that is why we are taking time to listen and learn from all the voices, including our team members and charity partners, as we strengthen our diversity and inclusion work.”