Tractor Supply is ending DEI and climate efforts after conservative backlash online

NEW YORK — Tractor Supply is ending an array of corporate diversity and climate efforts, a move coming after weeks of online conservative backlash against the rural retailer.

Tractor Supply said it would be eliminating all of its diversity, equity and inclusion roles while retiring current DEI goals. It did not elaborate on what was entailed in eliminating DEI roles.

The company added that it would “stop sponsoring nonbusiness activities” such as Pride festivals or voting campaigns — and no longer submit data to the Human Rights Campaign, the largest advocacy group for LGBTQ+ rights in the U.S.

The Brentwood, Tennessee-based retailer, which sells products ranging from farming equipment to pet supplies, also said in a statement Thursday that it would withdraw from its carbon emission goals to instead “focus on our land and water conservation efforts.”

These changes mark a stunning shift in policy and messaging from Tractor Supply, which once touted its diversity and inclusion efforts. Just earlier this month, Tractor Supply President and CEO Hal Lawton maintained that the company remained “very consistent” in how it approaches its own DEI and ESG — environmental, social and governance — programs for a number of years.

“(We’ve) just been very consistent in our emphasis there,” Lawton said in a June 5th interview with The Associated Press, pointing to company web pages that he said reinforced and reported on those efforts. “We haven’t walked away from anything.”

Thursday’s move appeared to reverse much of that — and arrives amid a wider backdrop of conservative backlash and litigation that has targeted companies across industries, as well as a wide array of diversity initiatives, including fellowships, hiring goals, anti-bias training and contract programs for minority or women-owned businesses.

Legal attacks against companies’ diversity and inclusion efforts have particularly been on the rise since June of last year, when the Supreme Court ruled to end affirmative action in college admissions. Many conservative and anti-DEI activists have been seeking to set a similar precedent in the working world.

Beyond the courtroom, some companies and brands — from Bud Light to Target — have been hit with online campaigns calling for boycotts.

Meanwhile, some other corporations and law firms have quietly altered their diversity programs, a stark contrast to the very public announcement on Thursday by Tractor Supply. In its statement, the company said “heard from customers that we have disappointed them” and “taken this feedback to heart.”

“We will continue to listen to our customers and Team Members,” Tractor Supply added. “Your trust and confidence in us are of the utmost importance, and we don’t take that lightly.”

A Tractor Supply spokesperson declined to provide further comment Friday.

This week’s move arrives after the company faced ample pushback online from conservative activists and far-right accounts across social media, including from the prominent right-wing account known as Libs of TikTok.

The backlash against Tractor Supply appeared to bubble up earlier this month. In a June 6 post on social media platform X, conservative political commentator and filmmaker Robby Starbuck told his followers to “start buying what you can from other places until Tractor Supply makes REAL changes and shows that they respect the majority of their customers enough to not spend the money we give them on causes we’re deeply opposed to.”

Starbuck and other conservative social media users continued to criticize Tractor Supply in the following weeks — and celebrated Thursday’s news from the company.

In contrast, others have expressed disappointment with Tractor Supply’s announcement — with some arguing that the company is giving in to hate and harming its customers by abandoning crucial principles. Many users on social media are also vowing to now shop elsewhere.

Eric Bloem, vice president of programs and corporate advocacy at the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement that Tractor Supply is “turning its back on their own neighbors with this shortsighted decision.” The organization had worked with Tractor Supply to create inclusive policies and practices for years, he added.

“LGBTQ+ people live in every zip code in this country, including rural communities. We are shoppers, farmers, veterans and agriculture students,” Bloem said. “Caving to far right extremists is only going to hurt the same folks that these businesses rely on.”

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