For decades, no one expected companies to take positions on socially divisive issues. But with an increasingly polarized electorate leading to waning trust in the public sector, stakeholders of all types are looking with ever more frequency to today’s business leaders not only to show financial acumen but help guide the country’s moral discourse.
This has created new and unique challenges for companies across industries and sectors.
Those watching closely have witnessed this change from shareholder capitalism to stakeholder capitalism building for close to a decade, with today’s external advocacy groups and internal employee affinity groups stepping up with increasingly complex demands. The last year has shown those demands coming from the right and the left, with diametrically opposing desired outcomes.
Stakeholders are threatening companies rhetorically and in some cases moving against certain corporate benefits. The landscape has grown even more fraught as the Supreme Court hands down controversial decisions.
The net–net is no company has the luxury of kicking the can on how it will engage.
What will make the difference, as communications and government relations professionals know, is preparedness – taking the time now to look at your industry, company, culture, employee base and customers and be prepared – and make sure your leadership is prepared – to make decisions on issues that often arise with little warning. No day goes by when one or more of our clients doesn’t ask for help navigating this area. If we’ve learned nothing else, we know the solution is always unique. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Instead, leaders must make decisions following a rigorous, dispassionate process tailored to their organization’s facts, people, impact, environment and past – and then must engage authentically. We have a number of offerings helping our clients do just this.