Corporate leaders appear to be speaking out more frequently on matters of social and political importance. Whether this CEO activism is a natural extension of corporate social responsibility or a reaction to an increasingly polarized political environment, recent survey data indicate that the public expects leadership from CEOs on key social issues.
In an online survey of 1,006 consumers, Weber Shandwick and KRC Research (3rd Annual Survey of CEO Activism, published in July 2018) found that 77% of respondents agreed that CEOs should speak out when their company’s values are violated or threatened, and nearly half (48%) agreed that companies should take positions on social issues they consider important to their workforce and to society, even if not directly related to the business. Such activity is not without risk.
While CEO activism may positively influence purchasing decisions among consumers who share the view espoused, with nearly half of respondents (46%) saying they would be more likely to buy from a company led by a CEO who speaks out on an issue they agree with, there is a risk of losing sales to consumers who disagree with the CEO’s stated position (45%).