From Uber to Equifax to Wells Fargo, the conduct, policies, or the lack of policies, in corporate America has had a social, economic and political impact on our society and communities.
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010 guaranteed corporations, corporate personhood. The ability for a collective body of people in a corporation the rights, and protection afforded to any individual from the constitution. In this specific instance, the right to make political expenditures/donations under the first amendment.
In our current political and social climate, as one corporation announces itself as the first 1 trillion-dollar company, what is the role of these companies in our society? What are their responsibilities? What are the challenges faced by corporations to be ethical and socially responsible? How should they address these responsibilities in this day and age?
In the time of the “Metoo” movement, brave women have shed light on years of harassment and mistreatment of women at workplaces. Today (07/12/2018) Uber pushed out their own human resource chief for policies and procedures that failed in addressing issues brought up to her department.
Victims have been both men and women, as well as people of the same sex as the harassers. Notably, harassers and victims can be people outside the workplace as well, such as customers, clients, and vendors.
As many workplace cultures adopt a more casual atmosphere, the work culture that’s promoted has to reflect the respect employees must show each other. Sometimes a loss of formality has led to an ease in professionalism.
Organizations need to provide an open-door policy for addressing harassment related issues and have strict stringent procedures for addressing any allegations and investigating them.
The culture thus far seems to have been geared more towards protecting the interests of the corporation and clearing itself of liability vs addressing issues and behaviors.
Training and an ongoing conversation that promotes healthy professionalism at the workplace and respect to your fellow colleagues should be front and center of any corporate culture, that goes beyond just words but to action.
The James Damore conversation brought in to light another issue that corporations are facing in regards to diversity and how to promote diversity.
I will not go into detail about why diversity and inclusivity are better for businesses.
“According to the research, teams outperform individual decision makers 66% of the time, and decision making improves as team diversity increases. Compared to individual decision makers, all-male teams make better business decisions 58% of the time, while gender diverse teams do so 73% of the time. Teams that also include a wide range of ages and different geographic locations make better business decisions 87% of the time.”
Diversity does not merely refer to race, but gender, age, and geographic location. In my opinion, diversity provides different outlooks and different viewpoints on a corporation’s actions, policies, how we see and address issues and make decisions.
If you are leading a team you would want as many perspectives as possible. Not just demographical diversity, but diversity in personalities.
The criticism against promoting diversity in the workplace has been that it doesn’t truly promote talent or skill. That it has become a blind gesture to promote numbers and show diversity, rather than actually take steps to promote inclusivity. That it is a forced policy that creates division among its employees.
In a genuine inclusive culture, diversity should not have to be promoted, it should just be part and parcel of your hiring practices. But in this day and age with the biases that exist and the current cultural struggle with racism sexism and prejudice, corporation have to take proactive action to increase the diversity of their workforce.
On June 10, 1963, the Equal Pay Act was signed into law, mandating that men and women receive the same pay for the same work. But still, America continues to struggle with equal pay for men and women.
“When applying to jobs, research finds that white applicants receive 36 percent more callbacks than equally qualified African-Americans and 24 percent more callbacks than Latinos. A poll by NPR found that one-third of Native Americans say they have experienced workplace discrimination when it comes to looking for a job, getting a promotion or earning equal pay. “
In a free market deregulated age, it’s up to corporations to be socially responsible and lead in equal pay and equality for the genders and races.
Employee Mental and Physical Well-being.
In a competitive world, the stresses of performance have reached new heights. The challenge of finding balance in life and professional career has become harder and harder.
Corporations need to take an active role in the mental well-being of their employees and how they balance their personal lives and work lives. Gone are the days when your personal life is left at the door. To truly be able to motivate and get the best out of any employee, Corporations must accept that the personal well-being of their employees is vital and a concern for the employer.
Maternal and Paternal leave at the workplace. Paid vacation and mental health days, and activities outside of work that promote mental well-being are some of the steps being taken in the private sector.
Political Contributions, Policies and Endorsements and Political Lobbying.
2002 Citizens United guaranteed the option for corporations to contribute to political campaigns. Corporations should be transparent in their lobbying agendas and what their interests are.
We saw Microsoft struggle with their involvement and partnership with Immigration and Customs Enforcement service. Microsoft’s own employees rose up to stand up for what they believed was unethical involvement. It was successfully addressed by the leadership at Microsoft. But this showed how successful communication and having a moral and ethical stand on cultural and moral issues matter in business strategy.
In the current, cultural and political climate corporations and their leaders are being held accountable for their actions.
If you are a strategist for any company, you should see corporate responsibility not merely as a duty but as an opportunity. You have the opportunity to progress the social and cultural well-being of a community.
Starbucks supporting college tuition for their employees. LEGO in addition to partnerships with organizations like the World Wildlife Fund, making a commitment to reduce their carbon footprint and working towards 100% renewable energy capacity by 2030 are encouraging steps taken by corporations to pave the way for social and economic progress.
But these acts alone are never sufficient. Corporations portray a certain identity in the marketplace for what they stand for, Mission statements and vision statements all contribute to this corporate identity.
When at a fundamental level, our trust is broken by their core actions in their field of business, these corporations should not be forgiven by the market and a higher standard should be expected for these corporations by the consumers.
Too big to fail should not be an option for a company. Facebook and Wells Fargo are some of the examples of corporations that have repeatedly breached this trust placed by the consumer. Still, they have survived with very little repercussion or discourse, lowering the standard of what is expected of these companies.