Should CEOs Speak Up on Social Issues?

business_ethics_highlights_2It’s a question that comes up surprisingly frequently in 2018: should CEOs (or companies) ‘speak up’ on social, political, and ethical issues? The piece below argues “yes.” The author points to the fact that people seem to want CEOs to speak up (hmm, at least they want CEOs to speak up on issues they — the individual consumer — agree with them on). And the author also points to Nike as an example of a company that has recently spoken out on a controversial topic, and that seems likely to reap market benefits from doing so.

But note: the fact that the public wants you to speak up is not, in itself, an ethical issue. And neither is the claim that you may be rewarded by the market for doing so. Is there an ethical argument for doing so?


LINK: Yes, CEOs, You Do Need To Speak Up On Social Issues (by Josh Bersin for Forbes)

In Deloitte’s 2018 study of global human capital trends, “The Rise of the Social Enterprise,” the team interviewed many CEOs and found them in a quandary about taking a position on social issues. Ken Frazier, the CEO of Merck, told us he struggled to decide how to play out the Charlottesville issue and eventually decided to speak out, exit the Trump business leadership roundtable, and clearly state his views. Since then many CEOs have struggled with social issues (Wal-Mart and Dick Sporting Good’s position on guns, for example), often taking the traditional position to “just stay out of it.”

New research by Edelman now shows that 56% of consumers have no respect for CEOs who remain silent on social issues, and a new study by BrandFog found that 64% of consumers say it is “extremely important” for CEOs to take positions on social issues, especially among the companies they buy from….

What do you think?

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  1. Pingback: CEE Review: Should CEOs speak up on social issues? | Stephen Hicks’s new podcast series, and more » Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship

  2. Hanania B Dover

    Businessmen, as anyone, should make their stand clear on issues relevant to their life.
    As an aside, corporations as such should not spend resources on speaking up on subjects irrelevant o their business UNLESS 100% of the shareholders agree.

    • Thanks for your comment. Of course, sometimes “irrelevant to their business” is a tough call. Also: the requirement that “100% of shareholders agree” implies that corporations should never speak up: 100% agreement is unlikely, and further it’s impossible to *find out*, (not least because current high-speed trading means that the list of shareholders changes second to second).

  3. Pingback: Top 10 Business Ethics Stories of 2018 | Business Ethics Highlights

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