Barilla Tries to Recover From Chairman’s Anti-Gay Comments

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Some apologies are more al dente than others. Photo: Courtesy @peacevehicle/Twitter

The Italian pasta giant faced the wrath of consumers worldwide in September, after Chairman Guido Barilla dispensed some unfortunate anti-gay commentary on Italian radio, but now the pasta-maker is working overtime to show just how accepting it really is. The company yesterday announced the launch of its in-house Diversity & Inclusion Board, and meanwhile said it would begin participation with the Corporate Equality Index, a human-rights group that evaluates how LGBT employees are treated based on internal policies and practices. Plus, Barilla's even hired its first-ever chief diversity officer.

In September, while appearing on Radio24, Guido Barilla said, "I would never do (a commercial) with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect but because we don't agree with them. Ours is a classic family where the woman plays a fundamental role." Though the chairman and his parent company were quick to issue apologies, the story ricocheted through social media, leading to boycotts and impromptu demonstrations of pasta-trashing around the world.

Things have apparently changed around the macaroni factory, and the company now wants you to know it's been a champion of universal human rights and tolerance all along. Diversity, inclusion and equality have long been grounded in Barillas culture, values and code of conduct. They are reflected in our policies and the benefits we provide to all employees, regardless of age, disability, gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation, says Chief Executive Officer Claudio Colzani. Other steps toward image rehab include bringing on human-rights activist David Mixner to serve on the new board.

As for the egalitarian new era of Barilla? The company says it will "launch a global online contest in 2014 designed to engage people on diversity, inclusion and equality." Entrants will film videos that channel the "multifaceted nature of pasta," which will then be voted on by the public and "judged by an expert panel." In other words, while the company is busy reviewing its internal policies and culture, it is outsourcing the rehabilitation of its public image to the same people who may have previously boycotted its products.

Barilla Announces Leadership Initiative in Diversity & Inclusion [Barilla via Huffington Post]
Earlier: Barilla Chairman Says Gays Can Eat Pasta From Another Manufacturer
Earlier: Gluten Intolerance: 48 People Who Definitely Wont Be Buying Barilla Pasta