Lloyd's of London and Greene King apologise over slavery links

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
Lloyds of London's building in central London. (PA)

Lloyd’s of London and Greene King have both apologised over their links to Britain’s historic slave trade.

The insurance giant and pub chain both also vowed to do more to tackle challenges facing ethnic minorities, including funding external organisations and internal diversity and inclusion measures.

It marks the latest development in the fallout from the toppling of a slave trader’s statue in Bristol during a Black Lives Matter protest, triggered by the deaths of George Floyd and other black Americans at the hands of the police.

Several companies have pledged their support for the Black Lives Matter movement, but many face increasing scrutiny over their own records, past and present.

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A spokesperson for Lloyd’s said on Thursday the company was “sorry for the role played by the Lloyd’s market in the 18th and 19th century slave trade.”

It came after the company was asked by news outlets about several of the company’s founder subscribers’ inclusion on a University College London (UCL) database on slave-owners and their legacy.

Founder subscriber Simon Fraser is reported to have benefited from compensation worth the equivalent of £400,000 ($502,248) today after slaves were released from his family’s plantations.

“Lloyds has a long and rich history dating back over 330 years, but there are some aspects of our history that we are not proud of,” said the spokesperson.

“This was an appalling and shameful period of English history, as well as our own, and we condemn the indefensible wrongdoing that occurred during this period.”

He added that an inclusive culture was one of Lloyd’s “top strategic priorities,” admitting not enough progress had been made.

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The company adopted a range of measures earlier this month to “help improve the experience of black and minority ethnic talent in the Lloyd’s market.”

They include investment in programmes to recruit, retain and promote ethnic minority staff, a review of company policies, a review of its artefacts and “how Lloyd’s presents its history,” and financial support for charities promoting “opportunity and inclusion” for ethnic minorities.

The company also said it was grateful to ethnic minority colleagues who had helped “shape our conversations” and create an environment “free from injustice.”

Greene King’s chief executive officer Nick Mackenzie also released a statement after facing questions about the company’s founder Benjamin Greene.

Greene is also included on UCL’s database, receiving compensation worth £500,000 today for surrendering three plantations in the West Indies, according to PA. A total of 47,000 people are reported to have received compensation as slave owners when slavery was officially abolished in 1833.

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Mackenzie said: “It is inexcusable that one of our founders profited from slavery and argued against its abolition in the 1800s. While that is a part of our history, we are now focused on the present and the future.”

He said staff were “from all backgrounds” and that racism and discrimination had “no place at Greene King.”

“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,” he added.

The company also announced new investment in both its own diversity and inclusion policies and its work with charity partners. “We plan to make a substantial investment to benefit the BAME community and support our race diversity in the business as we increase our focus on targeted work in this area,” said Mackenzie.