Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia's nationalized oil company, is a massive entity.
In December 2019, Aramco debuted on the stock market with an Initial Public Offering valuing the company at around $1.9 trillion.
But for all Saudi Aramco's monetary strides and capitalist successes, it has evidently overlooked public relations. With the Coronavirus sweeping across the globe at alarming rates (125,865 confirmed cases and 4615 reported deaths globally, at time of writing) a large workplace is an obvious cause for concern.
Given that washing hands regularly is just about the best way to minimize the spread of COVID-19, companies, like Saudi Aramco, are attempting to be a part of the solution.
That said, OPTICS ARE EVERYTHING.
Sure, Saudi Aramco did provide the hygienic means appropriate to the situation. That is absolutely a gesture of corporate responsibility.
But Aramco's approach has NOT been well received.
#Saudi @ARAMCO’s idea of a hand sanitizer stand: a foreign worker from a poor country. The company apologized afte… https://t.co/T8w8W7pdFn— Dr. Abbas Kadhim (@Dr. Abbas Kadhim) 1583882692.0
The photos that went viral recently of an Asian Saudi #Aramco worker forced to act as a human stand for dispensing… https://t.co/JCz3mPBKIL— ImpACT International (@ImpACT International) 1583933897.0
As the tweet captions articulate, there is another problematic layer at play beyond the mere fact that this man has been literally objectified, disproportionately placed in close proximity to germs before they're wiped away by the liquid of his costume.
Responses invited the suspicion that this man's race and country of origin had everything to do with why he of all people was chosen to be a mere tool of the workplace.
@DrAbbasKadhim @Aramco Beyond grotesque.— Kat Ward (@Kat Ward) 1583949158.0
@DrAbbasKadhim @Aramco Oh its racism https://t.co/rIesAWSPLb— Abdulaziz (@Abdulaziz) 1583912799.0
@Globalpoliticss This is just a teaser how #KSA treated the South Asian labours...modern slavery— Shaf Qazi (@Shaf Qazi) 1583936193.0
@DrAbbasKadhim @Aramco This is more harmful than Corona virus— ماهر حسونة 🇯🇴 (@ماهر حسونة 🇯🇴) 1583910037.0
@DrAbbasKadhim @Aramco I guess most valuable company in world haven’t heard about or seen a sanitizer stand. https://t.co/YDVJxngrDy— 𝗠Λ𝗗𝗨𝗦𝗛Λ𝗡 𝗝Ξ𝗗Λ𝗡 (@𝗠Λ𝗗𝗨𝗦𝗛Λ𝗡 𝗝Ξ𝗗Λ𝗡) 1583976683.0
@andygib @Aramco No doubt there are good people in ARAMCO. That does not negate the repulsive nature of such practi… https://t.co/fPlYBGZ6hi— Dr. Abbas Kadhim (@Dr. Abbas Kadhim) 1583944425.0
The outrage eventually swelled to such a degree that Saudi Aramco was forced to make a public statement regarding the PR faux pas.
إشارة إلى الصور المتداولة في وسائل التواصل الاجتماعي لأحد الزملاء مرتدياً ما يشبه عبوة للتعقيم في أحد مرافقها، تود… https://t.co/mPGWVas8OS— أرامكو (@أرامكو) 1583874075.0
While the statement was only written in Arabic, Buzzfeed News reports that the statement apologized to the general public for the "very dissatisfying" decision. The post did not, according to Buzzfeed, apologized to the man himself or provide any information about who made the decision and why.