Italian pasta maker Barilla announced Monday on its website an initiative to make the company more diverse and run a more inclusive TV ad campaign.
The initiative follows a series of meetings held between chairman Guido Barilla and gay rights activists in Italy and the U.S. in response to Barilla’s comment during a September radio interview when he said he would never feature gay families in the company’s ads. The comment sparked criticism and calls for a boycott.
“Italy is a very insular country, and in cities like Parma it’s even more so. The meetings have helped open our eyes and ears to the evolution taking place in the world outside Parma,” a spokesman for the Parma-based company told Reuters. "We are already working on a new advertising concept that will be much more open and much more inclusive."
According to the website, the company has just established a Diversity & Inclusion Board, to "improve diversity and equality in the company’s workforce and culture." The board will be headed by David Mixner, an activist for human rights for decades and “a prominent global leader in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community,” as stated on Barilla’s website.
Barilla will also appoint a Chief Diversity Officer and participate in the U.S.-based Human Rights Campaign's corporate equality index, which rates companies' policies relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.
Some critics say this is all being done over fears of losing business.