Hootsuite Realizes Partnering with ICE is Not a Good Look for a B Corp, Cancels Contract

Hootsuite, a Vancouver-based social media software company with over 1,000 employees worldwide, announced today that they will be cancelling a controversial contract with the U.S. government’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement office (I.C.E.)

For those who care about human rights, it’s a good move. I.C.E. has been accused of a litany of horrific behaviours, including but not limited to separating families, keeping children in cages, holding people in unsanitary conditions, medical neglect and performing forced hysterectomies. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez compared the government detention centres to concentration camps.

Private companies, of course, are legally permitted to work with whatever vile institutions they please, but the fact that Hootsuite is a certified B Corp (businesses that commit to putting ethical decisions ahead of profits) really made the whole partnership stink of hypocrisy. The company’s public support of the Black Lives Matter movement and public commitment to diversity and equality also seem at odds with the decision to take on the contract. 

Hootsuite denied that they even had a partnership with I.C.E. in a comment to Business in Vancouver yesterday.

However, the website of the Department of Homeland Security confirms that they were paying Hootsuite over $500,000 for services. 

Today, however, due to backlash inspired in part by employees’ public outrage, Hootsuite tweeted that they had “decided not to do business” with the U.S. immigration office and called an all-hands meeting to discuss internally.

Comments to Hootsuite’s announcements were, shall we say, not forgiving.

Hootsuite followed their announcement of the contract cancellation with a note from new CEO Tom Keiser. 

“Although I typically would not make a public statement about our customers and our contracts, in this instance I feel it’s important. Recently our company has had to go through the process of determining whether we would engage in a contract with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

“That sparked a great deal of internal conversation—and the formation of a committee to further that discussion and consider all points of view. Considering the various factors, including our belief in the power of communications and social engagement to break down barriers, and supported by the set of objective guidelines that emerged from that committee, we made the decision to proceed with signing a contract with ICE.”

“Over the last 24 hours, there has been a broad emotional and passionate reaction from our people and this has spurred additional dialog. We have heard the lived experiences from our people and the hurt they are feeling. The decision has created a divided company, and this is not the kind of company I came to lead. I—and the rest of the management team—share the concerns our people have expressed. As a result, we have decided not to proceed with the deal with ICE.”

At the time of this publication, Hootsuite’s contract with I.C.E. still appeared to be active according to the Homeland Security website, but if they have actually cancelled the contract, that presumably will change shortly.