The Emerging Role of the CEO Activist

posted by Administrator on 06/17/2019 in Uncategorized  | Tagged , , , ,

In today’s interconnected society, moving the needle and extending your influence can be done with even just a social media post. As the leader of your organization, you have the potential to act as an “influencer” in your industry. Although there is an extensive history of corporations shaping policy and the course of history, the role of the CEO activist is fairly new.

According to a recent Harvard study, more than 65% of those surveyed said they want their CEOs to take an active and prominent stance on social issues. But, the question becomes, what role does activism have (or should have) for today’s CEO?

CEO development coaches recommend speaking up and out on social issues, for three key reasons.

  1. You have an authentic stance on the issue. Is there a personal connection you have with the issue? Does it resonate with your employees, customers, vendors, or is it aligned with your company’s mission? For example, unfair treatment of farmers in South America would be an authentic and personal issue for your company if you rely on these farmers to grow products you then use in items you sell. The point with this is the issue is connected to your business (even if indirectly) and as such you should be part of finding a solution. Immediately after the Parkland Florida shooting in February 2018, Ed Stack, CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods removed all assault-style guns from their stores in response to the tragic events. In this sense, he was able to send a clear signal to the world that he was taking a corporate stance on gun violence and gun control.
  2. You want to connect with your socially conscious workforce. Unlike their counterparts, Millennial employees are actively involved in social matters. In fact, for many in this demographic, working for a socially responsible and philanthropic organization is key to them feeling fulfilled at work. Workplace satisfaction surveys have found that the more socially active the CEO, the more engaged their workforce, suggesting that CEO activism may be a key component to connect with your employees on a deeper level. It is through this shared interest of advocacy and social justice that may motivate Millennial employees to be more productive at work and less likely to leave.
  3. You want to do the right thing for your business. In a time where over 85% of Americans participate in some form of social or political activism, your employees likely expect you to take a prominent stance on social issues or events. For example, some companies have chosen to leave contracts or refuse to take work that may be related to detaining immigrants. In addition, other companies, especially retailers may remove product lines that promote racism, homophobia, or otherwise offensive groups. You want your employees and customers to feel comfortable and proud to use your business, so staying abreast of those social issues that may affect them is essential to you being able to address those issues either through an official statement or specific business action.

Are you a CEO activist? Should social activism have a place in business? Are there topics that CEOs must speak out about?

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