Big Donations Don’t Absolve You — In the News or At Home

Wayfair demonstrates why large charitable donations don’t make up for business decisions that don’t align with company values


The Wayfair employee walkout has been heavily covered in the media, with articles appearing in the Boston MagazineThe New York Times, and the Boston Globe, among others.

According to the stories and social media posts, the Wayfair Walkout was organized in protest of the company’s sale of furniture to a new detention center in Texas, intended for detained migrant children.

While I don’t necessarily consider Wayfair a true purpose-driven organization, it is certainly a company with a strong culture. More than 500 of its employees wrote to the company’s leadership after discovering the sale to express their concerns.

Specifically, they felt the brand’s promise had been broken. It’s printed publicly on the company website: “Wayfair believes everyone should live in a home that they love.”

Employees asked Wayfair to stop all current and future sales to the detention facility.

In return, they received a formal and distant response from Wayfair leadership, likely worded in the presence of a boardroom full of lawyers, that stated that Wayfair will sell to “any customer who is acting within the law.”

Wayfair did make a play for the heartstrings, saying that it would make a $100,000 donation to the American Red Cross.

Specifically, they said they “care a great deal about humanitarian issues,” and the donation to the Red Cross was to support “their effort to help those in dire need of basic necessities at the border.”

Guess what? The Red Cross isn’t involved with the border facilities at the heart of the issue.

It is, however, one of the largest charitable name brands associated with humanitarian issues, which made it easy to pick in a pinch.

Making a donation like this one supports the traditional damage control strategy: Say little and the problem will go away. Stay neutral and the problem will go away. Donate a noteworthy amount to a headlining cause and the problem will go away.

The walkout and the attention it has received demonstrates that these aren’t options anymore, especially when an employee (or in this case 500 of them) has raised an issue about business practices.

Katie Burkhart