Is activism an appropriate response for business leaders? It’s hardly contentious to say that events in 2016 and since have highlighted some serious divisions in societies across the Western world. The election of Donald Trump, the Brexit vote, the rise of populist, nationalist parties across Europe. (And no, I’m not forgetting the horrors of what has happened in Syria.)
But is any of this relevant to business leaders? Of course, they need to be aware of the political background but shouldn’t they just be getting on with doing their job – providing leadership for their businesses?
Well, maybe the political background and business leadership can’t be so easily disentangled.
In a recent article, Bev Armstrong (founder of Brazo Fuerte Artisanal Beer) and Jesse Mermell (president of the Alliance for Business Leadership) argue that business leaders should most definitely be engaged in the whole process of social reform, Citing a report published by the Brookings Institute, they point out that many of today’s consumers – who, in a globalised, capitalist economy, generally have a choice – want to “support businesses that they can respect for their positive stance and impact on society and the environment, as well as on the economy”.
It may be a tough thing to do. There may well be brickbats mixed in with the bouquets. But, irrespective of whether your social conscience or your focus on the bottom line is driving you, getting active may be a tough thing that you simply have to do.