每日英語跟讀 Ep.K189: How Public Letters Became Companies’ Favorite Form of Activism
Over the past few years, CEOs have taken a stance on a variety of issues that previous generations of business leaders might have avoided altogether. Some have pledged money or reassessed their firm’s political giving. Mostly, though, they have written and signed countless public letters.
Anti-LGBTQ legislation, police brutality against Black Americans, violence against Asian Americans and the recent efforts to restrict voting access have all prompted strongly worded statements from some of the nation’s most prominent business figures. In one case, hundreds of them signed a letter together.
It can be easy to dismiss the significance of a letter as a tool of change. A signed statement is, quite literally, all talk, and it doesn’t guarantee any further action. But these letters also mark a shift in the relationship between companies and their employees and customers, and in the scope of the role that CEOs are expected to play in the social and political landscape.
“The tipping point really was the 2016 election,” said Meike Eilert, who researches company and consumer behavior, most recently at the University of Kentucky.
As politics were becoming more divisive, Gen Z was entering the workforce and gaining power as consumers. “Digitally native generations, but especially Gen Z, put a lot of pressure on companies to stand up and demonstrate their values,” she said.
The nature of the issues at the core of these conversations has also changed. Recent CEO letters against voting legislation, for example, are a case not of demanding change but of speaking up for democratic rights enshrined in law decades ago.
“What you’re seeing is CEOs holding the center,” said Michael Toffel, a professor at Harvard Business School who studies CEO activism. Ten years ago, securing voting rights would not have been considered a “liberal” thing, he said, adding: “It would have been kind of an American thing.”
So why turn to an open letter? Companies want to balance the shift in consumer and employee expectations with pressure from investors, who have historically tended to frown on any efforts that could divert resources from shareholder value. Writing a letter is a relatively safe way to do that, suggested a paper in the Journal of Marketing last year. Signing a group letter is even safer.
Consumers and employees “do not accept silence as neutrality anymore,” Nooshin Warren, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Arizona said.
亞利桑那大學行銷助理教授努欣．華倫說，消費者和員工「不再接受沉默是中道」。 Source article: https://udn.com/news/story/6904/5639841