In the eyes of the law, a corporation is a person. There is a lot to unpack around this subject. I’ll leave it for the legal experts. I’m going take this in a different direction. After the siege on the Capitol last week, I believe that corporations can be parents.
It used to be about red shirts and pink ribbons. Like good role models, companies introduced us to important causes and encouraged us to get involved. These campaigns live under the umbrella of corporate social responsibility (CSR) which has been happening for decades. In recent years, CSR has expanded beyond these campaigns to include efforts to improve the environment, build a diverse workforce, provide equal pay and promote transparency. In fact, now corporations can be formed as benefit corporations, (a.k.a., a socially-responsible parents). Also see, Certified B Corp.
Despite the evolution of CSR, corporations have consistently used their resources to improve from within and lead by example, or donate to causes that make improvements in the lives of others. This week, that all changed. The parents started taking away allowance.
There is a growing list of corporations suspending corporate and employee political action committee (PAC) contributions to members of Congress. The majority of companies to date are targeting Republicans who voted against the certification of the Electoral College. We heard from many of these companies during the summer when they spoke out against racial inequality: Airbnb, American Express, Blue Cross, Comcast, Commerce Bank, Disney, Dow, Marriott International, Mastercard and Walmart.
The sentiment has been pretty consistent: lawmakers who sought to disrupt a peaceful transition, undermine democracy or overturn free and fair elections should be punished.
Are we ready to introduce a new term: corporate social activism? Dammit, I just did a Google search; it already exists.
Channeling money to elected officials does not reside under CSR, and corporations have been doing it for a long time. It goes something like this – companies support lawmakers who promise to create an environment most favorable to the company. Historically, the contributions are used as carrots, not sticks. This week, Corporate America wielded a big club. They went from “we’ll give you $10 if you bring home a report card with all A’s and B’s,” to “I can’t believe you went to that party, you’re grounded.”
I am glad we are seeing this level of outrage and engagement. After all, I believe that “unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.” Thank you, Dr. Seuss.
However, what is the real message we are supposed to get from these statements and actions? Are they saying that a well-functioning democracy is most favorable to their business, or is there something more? There is one word noticeably absent from all of the statements on record that I’ve seen – truth.
These statements are doing much more than freezing contributions. They are sharing corporate values. Peaceful transition conveys refrain from violence. Undermine democracy conveys don’t be destructive. Free and fair election conveys play by the rules. But, we have to read between the lines. There are no lines when it comes to truth – at least that is what my parents told me.
Where do we go from here? Are the events of last week so extreme that this is a one-off response, or will corporations start to hold lawmakers accountable for all matters of interest to them, their shareholders and their community?
I guess it depends on the type of parents they want to be.