How companies can decide when to speak out on social issues

This much is clear: workers expect their employers to respond to the political events that are having a tremendous impact on their lives.

No matter how terrifying the change is for CEOs and boards, there is no turning back.

It remains unclear how companies should decide which topics deserve their attention. The past two years have produced a plethora of devastating and often polarizing events: the assassination of George Floyd, the January 6 uprising, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the coup roe v. Wade. But businesses only have a finite number of hours in a day — hours that must be balanced with day-to-day operations that make money.

Three experts – Miriam Warren, Yelp’s Chief Diversity Officer; Andrea Hagelgans, who leads Edelman’s social issues engagement practice; and Emma Goldberg, future reporter for work New York Times—took up this question at a panel at Columbia Business School this week. The discussion resulted in a rough decision framework:

Know your company values. Be clear about what matters and communicate it. When you understand that you risk angering employees who disagree.

Think about how the problem affects everyone involved. As Yelp emerged as an early advocate for access to abortion, its leaders first looked at the company’s communities: employees, consumers, advertising partners, business owners who rely on Yelp, the board of directors, and investors.

Make sure your business is credible. Before you comment on an issue or promise to take action, consider your company’s track record. Then fill in any gaps on your home lawn. Sharing your opinions without hesitation may result in inconsistent ad hoc messages.

Determine how your business is uniquely positioned to contribute. During the Black Lives Matter protests, Yelp was able to create lists of black-owned businesses for people who wanted to support them.

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plan ahead. Boards and executives can be proactive. US milestones are just around the corner, for example, but it’s already clear what thorny issues workers and other stakeholders will be pushing employers.

Be transparent. Help employees understand how and why the company made a decision.

Collect different votes. “Frankly, Bretter is still pretty much predominantly white and pretty male,” Hagelgans says. Make sure there are diverse voices thinking through these issues, especially from an employee’s perspective.

Lila MacLellan
[email protected]
@lilac macellan

An advice

“All too often there is too much focus on standard abilities and too little on less obvious but critical abilities. Once leaders identify what kind of superpowers their organization needs, they should seek those qualities and act to find them in potential hires.”

– Mauro Porcini, Chief Design Officer at PepsiCo, in an interview with wealth‘s CHRO Daily.

On the agenda

👓 Read: ​​A cosmetics company in the UK has appointed a new non-executive director to its board: nature. Apparently the idea is more than a gimmick. The company supports the movement to recognize the legal rights of the environment, and a climate scientist will join the board to serve as nature’s representative and spokesperson.

📺 Watch: Kara Swisher’s Code 2022 interview with Tim Cook, Jony Ive, and Laurene Powell Jobs covers care and intent in product development, how companies can use their platforms ethically, and leadership lessons from Steve Jobs.

📖 Bookmarks: Fortune Crypto, our newest content hub, features stories about the companies and ideas powering all things blockchain. Build it into your reading rotation to stay informed about digital currencies, NFTs, Web3 and more.

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Erika Nardin, CEO of Barstool Sports, resigned from the board of scandal-plagued WWE. The company added Michelle McKennaformer CIO of the NFL, and JoEllen Lyons Dillon, former Chief Legal Officer and M&A attorney, as new directors. Nike has appointed two new board members: Monica GilChief Administrative and Marketing Officer of NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, and Bob Swan, Partner at Andreessen Horowitz and former CEO of Intel. HPE tapped Regina DuganCEO of Wellcome Leap and former Head of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, appointed to its Board of Directors. Allan Thygesen, who until recently ran Google’s advertising business in the Americas, joins the DocuSign Board of Directors; he also becomes CEO. 😉

Stop the C-suite exodus as CEOs leave

CEO departures appear to be returning to pre-pandemic levels, meaning boards have another challenge ahead: holding on to the remaining C-suite executives.

The best solution is to offer executives bonuses to keep them around. But money, whether cash or deferred stock awards, is not a long-term solution.

Marco Pizzitola, a consultant at FW Cook, recently led a study examining the impact of retention grants. He and colleagues Joe Sorrentino and Stephan Bosshard looked at 65 US large-cap companies between 2010 and 2016 and found that bonuses kept C-suite managers from leaving for an average of two years, after which the turnover too. Bonuses at Fortune 500 companies have been generous, ranging from $1 million to $4 million, he says. Still, after $2 million, “you really don’t get much bang for your buck.”

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Read my full story on how boards can keep the C-suite here.


– In some hybrid workplaces, CEOs have access to enclosed spaces that offer privacy – just don’t call them offices.

– New York Attorney General Letitia James’ civil fraud lawsuit against former US President Donald Trump and his children could bring down the Trump Organization.

– Anti-ESG crusader Vivek Ramaswamy sent letters to Disney and Apple urging the companies not to engage in political and social discourse.

– “Money should be a by-product of deeply valuable ideas, not the idea itself,” writes designer, activist, and entrepreneur Seth Goldenberg in this excerpt from his book. radical curiosity.

Editor’s choice

One day we will shed the emotional baggage—guilt and shame—that comes with air travel. Or so says Pam Fletcher, Delta’s chief sustainability officer and GM veteran.

wealth Senior Writer Phil Wahba recently interviewed Fletcher about the airline’s commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Here is a snippet of their conversation:

fletcher: I’ve spent most of my career on the front end of trends and new technologies, and ultimately it taught me to deal with ambiguity, a method of thinking through problems that don’t yet have solutions. Look at the example of electrification in the auto industry: When I started in 2005, no one saw this as a future business model for the auto industry, but that’s where it ended up. And now it applies to the challenge of aviation and its decarbonization.

Read the rest here and have a safe weekend.

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