CEO Exits from Trump’s Business Council: Americans Expect Corporate Engagement

The weekend’s tragic events in Charlottesville and President Trump’s initial delayed and tepid reaction, followed by his double down on the dual culpability of both sides, have seen widespread condemnation. In the most recent news, the President was forced to shut down his two primary business councils after an exodus of CEOs including those from Merck, Intel, Under Armour, 3M, and Campbell Soup.

As we know from our Business & Politics research, Americans want to see leadership from Corporate America on issues that matter. Both consumers and employees are evaluating companies on their engagement in political and social issues when they decide what products to buy and where to work. Moreover, companies who move swiftly and authentically gain the most credit.  In short, Americans’ desire for corporate engagement isn’t just a preference – it’s an expectation.

Americans believe that corporations have the ability to change the narrative on social issues. 88% of respondents agree that corporations have the power to influence social change. 81% agree that companies should take action to address important issues facing society.  

81 v 88

 Americans also believe corporations have the responsibility to act. Eight of 10 Americans believe that corporations are responsible for bringing social change on important issues, just behind Congress and the President.   congresspresident

 

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Authenticity: Explaining your motivation—why and what you’re doing—in that context is critical to making your actions authentic. 65% of Americans say it’s okay for a company to oppose the Trump administration if it hurts their community. CEOs must show engagement and commitment to a set of guiding principles, be they personal values, or practical/business-related considerations.

When is it ok for a company to oppose the Trump Administration? If it hurts their:

 

Timeliness: Part of being authentic is responding in a timely way. 51% of Americans think that following a current event, corporations should respond within 72 hours. Millennials are looking for even quicker action: 62% say corporations should respond within 72 hours.

For example, we saw that many CEOs responded almost immediately to the 2016 presidential election.

 

Audience: Knowing your audience is key. Consumers are assessing companies based on positions they take. If a corporation took a political stance that they supported, 56% would be more likely to buy that company’s products or services. Millennials are even more attuned to corporate stances: 62% say they would be more likely to buy a company’s products or services if that company took a political stance they supported. Furthermore, people want to work for companies that share their values. Nearly 9 in 10 Americans want see corporate values as a job perk similar to 401K and bonus structure.

 

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