Dear CEOs, Whose Side Are You on?!

flick.com/Howard Lake/Speak up

Plato argued that everyone has an obligation to participate in politics… and although the share of the population that actively engages in elections is a challenging issue for many governments, the current reality is possibly closest to Plato’s vision than ever before. If before people would discuss political and social issues around the dining table with their families, during coffee breaks at work or while having drinks with their friends, today our opinions and voices have a much larger platform. In the current age of social media, we can maintain the conversation at any time, amongst different age and gender groups, and across borders. It has probably never been easier to publicly express a personal opinion. Moreover, given the current geopolitical turmoil, it probably hasn’t been so tempting to express these opinions in a long time.

This rise of political activism has been very prominent among different public figures, such as celebrities or athletes. Take for example Meryl Streep’s public stance on Trump, or the case of NFL player protests during the national anthem. Naturally, the same trend also occurs in the business realm, as discussed in one of my previous blog entries on CEO activism. A recent NY Times article sheds a new light on the matter though, arguing that CEO activism is not so much a matter of choice anymore…

According to the author Aaron K. Chatterji, an Associate Professor of business and public policy, in this new world of politics there is ever increasing pressure for businesses to take a clear stance on any bigger social issue. Keeping neutrality doesn’t seem to be a choice anymore. Speaking specifically of the U.S. reality, Professor Chatterji argues that the political environment, which has shifted from efforts to unite the population towards further divisions between conservatives and liberals, now dictates corporate strategy.

In the wake of the Florida school shooting, Georgia’s largest private-sector business Delta Air Lines took a stance on the matter of gun control by ending a promotional discount with the NRA. The decision resulted in a conservative backlash, and loss of a considerable tax break as well as loyalty of conservative clients. As such, Delta’s decision might have been attractive to its democratic client base while losing points with republicans – taking a stance impacts the client base, satisfying some and enraging others.

At the same time, not taking any stance or inaction doesn’t seem an option either. In the case of gun control and the NRA, companies that didn’t take any action to boycott the NRA, felt repercussions too. For example, the cargo firm FedEx, which didn’t change favorable rates for the NRA, got its negative social media feedback, such as this Tweet: ‘@FedEx…You’re a business, you CHOOSE to charge the NRA less. So, the rest of us will stop using your services’.  Silence is dangerous.

Although pressures for CEO activism are most prominent in the U.S., it is probably just a matter of time before the same applies for multinationals across the globe.

7 thoughts on “Dear CEOs, Whose Side Are You on?!

  1. Possibly one of the best approaches that can be seen. Today, CEOs are on the side of money, as is the lowest worker in the ladder. They love money and actively participate in politics, because if a committee of companies decides that the price of a certain sector is not raised, it does not rise.

  2. CEO activism and politics don’t mix. When half the country disagrees it opens up a pandora’s box that you can’t close. I could be wrong, but current CEO activism seems to be dividing the country to the point where it may no longer be repairable.

  3. Staying on top of the wall can be good at certain times not to generate conflict. But not taking a long-term position can be much more detrimental.

  4. Perhaps unique of the top methods that can be seen. Nowadays, CEOs are on the side of cash, as is the lowest worker in the hierarchy. They adoration on money and aggressively contribute in political affairs because if an agency of corporations agrees that the price of an individual sector is not raised, it does not rise.

  5. Three of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern American history have occurred in the past 6 months. I think the our state and federal governments should be embarrassed that companies like Delta are taking a position with respect to social issues like gun control, while politicians are still spouting the same sad rhetoric following every mass shooting.

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