CEOs Lead America’s New Great Awakening

As recently on gun safety, immigration, climate change, social justice and the infamous bathroom bills, major business leaders have protested against new efforts to restrict voters in state legislatures. I am proud to have initiated part of this activity. Critics mocked such civic engagement with headlines like “Wool CEOs’ Foolhardy Bid To Shape Voting Laws” or “Woke and Weak CEOs”. This business awakening should not be ridiculed, but celebrated as the rediscovery of a misunderstood pillar of America’s industrial greatness.

Economist Milton Friedman advised in his 1970 essay on corporate social responsibility: “It may well be in the long-term interests of a company that is a major employer in a small community to allocate resources to provide or improve facilities for that community Government. This can make it easier to attract desirable employees, lower labor costs or reduce losses from theft, sabotage, or other beneficial effects. “

Irving Shapiro, DuPont CEO and Chair of the Business Roundtable, echoed the point in 1983 when he told me, “Most business people are sensible and rational people. They realize that they must meet the needs of our society or they will not succeed. Free enterprise is a catchphrase. It means different things to different people. . . . I would take the case where we have to get rid of the opposing approach and just say that we have a common goal. “

Ensuring social cohesion in a democracy is part of a CEO’s job managing the strategic environment. No CEO wants employees to point the finger at hostile consumers and communities – even when Republican politicians address “wedge issues” with a plan to divide and conquer their inauguration.

Speaking is also part of the job. Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and JP Morgan all spoke on non-business issues. The Edelman Trust Barometer 2020 found that 92% of employees expect their CEO to comment on current issues. Surveys show that CEOs are among the most trusted voices in society today.

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