When Should Your Company Speak Up About a Social Issue? – Harvard Business Review

When Should Your Company Speak Up About a Social Issue? – Harvard Business Review

Executive Summary

Companies are increasingly under pressure to take a stand on high-profile political and social issues. Sometimes there is a clear moral issue at hand and the consequences will be most severe if you don’t say anything. At other times, it may not be so clear. But ultimately if your words don’t match your actions, they will be perceived as inauthentic, hypocritical, or woke-washing. Before deciding which issues to speak out on, companies and leaders should ask three questions: 1) Does the issue align with your corporate mission and values? 2) Can you meaningfully influence the issue? 3) Will your constituents (employees, customers, community) agree with speaking out?

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Black Lives Matter. Trade policy. Immigration. Over the last four years, companies have been under pressure from their constituencies — employees, customers, investors, and the communities in which they operate — to take a public stand on high-profile political and social movements. According to research from the Edelman Trust Barometer, 54% of employees globally believe that CEOs should speak publicly on controversial political and social issues they care about. Similarly, 53% of consumers agree that every brand has a responsibility to get involved in at least one social issue that does not directly impact its business.

It is impossible and impractical for companies
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