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Does Political Polarization Prevent Companies from Supporting Social Causes?

Companies looking to polarized elections and their aftermath may want to stop supporting hotbutton social issues. But experts say sitting on the sidelines is not rewarding, regardless of reputational risk.

Following record turnout for both key candidates in this month’s US presidential election, some companies support social issues without alienating key segments of the audience who feel they are not. I’m trying to balance.

The growing threat of repulsion does not prevent them from doubling their commitment to the social causes of their choice.

Brand-focused Jonathan Kopursky, a marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, said: management. “On the issue of social justice [today]At this point, I can’t think of a large organization where saying nothing would benefit them. “

Companies continue to focus specifically on issues of diversity, inclusion and racial equality that have been recognized after the protests caused by the May killing of George Floyd.twitter Co., Ltd.

Last week, it said it was part of a new investment fund aimed at capitalizing underserved borrowers, including blacks, Latinos, indigenous peoples and local communities.

Meanwhile, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP is currently hosting an annual meeting of over 1,400 CEOs on Thursday, committed to promoting diversity and workplace participation. Recently, a consulting firm has launched a branch of a project to promote public policy that promotes racial equality.

While these companies promote support for social causes, they often value stakeholders and adjust their message to remain as non-political as possible.

2019 PwC US Chairman Tim Ryan.


Photo:

Angela Owens / The Wall Street Journal

“There is always a risk of offending employees or losing customers,” said Tim Ryan, US Chairman of PwC. “But the bigger risk, on the other hand, is not adapting to the opportunities there, innovating, or attracting other types of customers.”

Even seemingly harmless social media posts about political unity backfire.gap Co., Ltd.

For example, the day after the election day, Twitter was attacked when it posted a photo of a half-blue, half-red sweatshirt.

“The intention of the social media post featuring the red and blue hoodies was to show the power of unity. It was too early for this message,” a Gap spokeswoman said in an email.

Still, Northwestern University’s Kopursky said it is unlikely that the tendency towards socially responsible companies will disappear after the election.

Risk & Compliance Journal Details

In 2019, the Business Roundtable, the country’s largest corporate industry group, announced that it would change its statement for corporate purposes. Decision making should not be based solely on maximizing profits. Group leaders should also take into account the needs of employees, customers, and the wider society, the group said.

Investors in recent years have also focused on socially responsible investment. ESG funds are so named because of their focus on environmental, social and governance practices, but they received record levels of influx last year.

Credibility and coherence are key when it comes to taking a stance, more generally in either race or politics. This goes beyond one-off marketing campaigns and social media posts aimed at strengthening the brand’s image, and by investing real-time and money, it provides a deeper organizational commitment to principle-based causes. Means to show, says brand and reputation analysts.

According to Nir Kossovsky, CEO of SteelCity ReLLC, a reputation risk management and insurance company, tackling social issues requires a thorough assessment of the company’s stakeholders.

Companies have traditionally divided the responsibilities of different stakeholders into different corporate functions. For example, the Human Resources department manages employees, marketing handles customers, and legal advisors or compliance officers are responsible for regulators.

According to Kosovsky, companies need someone who can gather information about different stakeholders and strategically manage the reputation risk associated with each.

“If you know what they want, you have the option of meeting their operations with their expectations or investing resources in managing expectations for something meaningful and reachable.” He said.

Erica Salmon Byrne, Executive Vice President of the Ethisphere Institute, a non-profit organization that promotes business ethics, states that the focus of member companies is on training managers to handle the political sensitivities of their teams.

Compliance personnel are unique in the process because they hold the key to the whistleblower hotline and the wider cultural health of the organization, as well as other systems that can be used to monitor complaints. Play a role.

“We’re going to see companies duck and cover,” Brin said. “But some of these broad trends go nowhere, so how long are you going to duck and cover?”

Write to Dylan Tokar (dylan.tokar@wsj.com)

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Does Political Polarization Prevent Companies from Supporting Social Causes?

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