“We are a community in pain,” writes Target CEO Brian Cornell on the company’s website, addressing recent social issues.
“This pain is not unique to the Twin Cities—it extends across America. The murder of George Floyd has unleashed the pent-up pain of years, as have the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. We say their names and hold a too-long list of others in our hearts.”
This heartfelt message is one example of what many CEOs and top executives of companies around the country are doing right now to condemn racism and discrimination and address current social issues.
Some are also taking the next step: along with verbally condemning what they see as existing injustices, they are announcing steps their companies are taking to do something about them.
“Today, Apple is making donations to a number of groups, including the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit committed to challenging racial injustice, ending mass incarceration, and protecting the human rights of the most vulnerable people in American society,” writes Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, also using the company’s website as its vocal platform.
“To create change, we have to reexamine our own views and actions in light of a pain that is deeply felt but too often ignored. Issues of human dignity will not abide standing on the sidelines. To our colleagues in the Black community—we see you. You matter, your lives matter, and you are valued here at Apple.”
Historically, most corporate executives have tried to keep themselves and their companies out of social issues discussions and situations such as these and as far away from any form of politics as possible. The traditional thinking is that if a CEO or company voices concern(s) on a situation, it will just offend others—customers and shareholders—with different views.
But things are different now. Further, we are advising our corporate clients that discussing major social issues may not only be the right thing to do but also good business.
“There is this general distrust or decline in trust in government, so [employees] are looking to CEOs to lead,” says Jonathan Jordan, senior vice president of employee experience at Edelman, an international public relations firm.
“Employees and consumers alike want chief executives to take a stand on social and workplace issues such as climate change, diversity and inclusion, immigration, income equality, ethical use of technology (privacy and data security) and so on, and for their actions to bolster those stands.”
Along with taking a stand, the following are some other steps we are recommending for some of our corporate clients and their CEOs:
Don’t be concerned about protecting the brand. The concern now is the current social environment and being the voice of your company, its employees, and its values.
Show “professional” emotion. These are emotional times in our country. CEOs can share their emotions in a professional, even comforting manner, similar to how things were said by Cornell and Cook.
Don’t react and forget. Both Target and Apple, mentioned earlier, are doing what they can to improve situations. Seeing that they are taking these steps builds customer and employee loyalty. People like to see companies “doing the right thing.”
Walk the talk. Every corporate executive must look inward and see that they and their companies are not simply talking the talk. Uncover inequities in your company policies and take steps to rectify them.
Finally, while we are encouraging our corporate clients to express their thoughts and the values their companies hold dear, we must not forget that these are very distressing times. In times like this, ensuring that organizations and their people and their property are secure and safe is paramount. This is what we do. Call us. We are here to help.
For more information on what we do, visit our Case Studies page.
As always, we value your feedback, which helps us shape our perspective on recent events, security, and the services we offer.
Chief Executive Officer