May 4, 2021

Corporations that take a stand also take a risk

They say silence is golden, yet numerous corporations recently have voiced positions on social issues…

They say silence is golden, yet numerous corporations recently have voiced positions on social issues that confront America: equality, immigration, voting rights, climate change and more. It is nothing new for corporations to take a stand, but in today’s politically charged environment, doing so means taking a greater risk than ever before.

Some believe companies only act in their best interest, so if a corporation thinks more of their customers and prospects are supportive of an issue than not, it is business-wise to speak out regardless of what the decision-makers really think.

Indeed, research shows many consumers consider a company’s position on social issues before making a purchase decision. Nearly 60% of Americans want the companies they buy products and services from to have a position on issues such as racial discrimination and social justice. Roughly 50% of the survey’s respondents said they often do online research to learn about a brand’s position on such issues.

Does that suggest companies voice opinions on social issues to grow their business regardless of their leaders’ true beliefs? Maybe some have taken that path, but many corporate leaders have made stands they knew would put them in the firing line. They followed their conscience. They did not remain silent. They took a risk for what they felt was right.

Here in Greater Cleveland, we are blessed with many companies that have taken stands on social issues. That they have voiced an opinion under a corporate brand is notable. This is a complex world with competing interests on nearly every issue. The path of least resistance is to do nothing, say nothing and stand for nothing. Yet corporations are made up of people. Among those people are leaders who have been given the responsibility to act, or not, on the social issues that confront their companies and the societies they serve.

The YMCA of Greater Cleveland is a nonprofit that has taken many stands that we believe are in the best interest of the communities we serve. Taking those stands has cost and gained us members and supporters. We do not have a balance sheet for such things. We have a conscious. We have a culture. We have a mission. We are for all.

We commend the companies that take a sincere stand on social issues. People have a right to agree or disagree, but that is how we vet ideas and advance our society. There will always be companies that say nothing. To them, silence is their gold, though that kind of gold has little value in the marketplace of ideas.

Hilk is president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Cleveland.