‘Globally pernicious’: Experts clash over whether companies should take political positions in DCNF debate

  • Scott Baradell, owner and founder of Idea Grove, and Jim Copland, director of legal policy at the Manhattan Institute, debated Thursday whether companies should take public positions on policy issues in Dallas, Texas, at Southern Methodist University.
  • Baradell viewed the political positions of big business as something that business leaders were pushed into by consumer demands, and believed that antitrust regulation could help alleviate the problems associated with powerful corporations getting into politics, by especially large tech companies.
  • Copland argued that environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives do little to address social and environmental issues and have a chilling effect in the workplace.

Scott Baradell, owner and founder of Idea Grove and Jim Copland, director of legal policy at the Manhattan Institute, discussed whether companies should take political positions during a panel discussion hosted by the Daily Caller News Foundation Thursday.

Baradell, who helps companies build public brands, said companies taking political stances are becoming the norm as they shift to “stakeholder capitalism”, meaning employees and investors often lead management. companies to shareholders.

He explained that politics is a minefield that leaders reluctantly navigate despite their general preference to avoid controversy.

Baradell argued that young Americans want brands involved because they feel more empowered as consumers — who can boycott or support companies based on their values ​​— rather than voting in the American political system. . He attributed the sentiment to both mistrust of our government and the impasse that makes it difficult to achieve real change in the political space.

Chris Bedford, editor of The Federalist and moderator of the DCNF debate, asked panelists to discuss the merits and shortcomings of the environmental, social and governance (ESG) movement, which is an investment strategy that takes into account the concerns environmental, social and governance. . (Democrats are turning to the sustainable investing craze as a way to advance the climate agenda)

Copland said corporate political involvement, particularly in the form of ESG initiatives, is “widely pernicious”. He argued that gridlock is a positive feature of the American system that forces politicians to find consensus through compromise, which means that change happens incrementally, while those checks do not apply to corporate governance. ‘business.

Corporate governance, he explained, is very different from environmental and social issues, and ESG initiatives typically fail to meet environmental goals and could even worsen environmental outcomes, citing various studies.

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Corporate political positions, he explained, play a role in creating hostile corporate environments in which workers are fired for holding controversial beliefs.

“Much of what we see today is employee driven. It’s industries in particular that have concentrated groups of employees with special interests,” Copland explained, referring to employee-led efforts to have certain content removed at companies like Netflix and Amazon.

“You have to have a huge following or you can be crushed by these forces,” he said, referring to Amazon’s decision to keep Abigail Shrier’s transgender book off its platform while removing other books that criticized gender ideology. “If I worked in an ordinary company, I would be terrified by this kind of situation.”

Bedford then brought the conversation to the financial impact of corporate political statements.

“The old mantra of ‘go wake up, go broke,’ at least as far as consumers are concerned, doesn’t seem to hold water anymore,” Bedford said. “What drawbacks do most of these companies face, at least on the retail side, if any?”

Baradell said public statements about politics, such as Nike’s decision to use Colin Kaepernick in advertising, are aimed at maximizing profits and are usually made on the basis of market research, with the understanding that while some customers may boycott, many will continue to purchase their products and even take advantage of the courier.

“Don’t you think Nike knew exactly what was going to happen when they line up with Colin Kaepernick?” asked Baradell. “He did his research. If research came back and said “everyone is going to burn their shoes” they wouldn’t align with Colin Kaepernick. [The research] said ‘this small group will burn their shoes, this other group will buy more shoes, this group is larger than this group for Nike, so that’s the direction we’re going. “

“When you get big enough, you have enough leeway to have opinions that don’t really hurt your brand,” he explained. (RELATED: Disney to Create More Gay Content for Kids)

Copland agreed that consumer boycotts are mostly ineffective.

The pair briefly discussed Big Tech, agreeing that tech companies have become too big and too powerful. Baradell said antitrust was the answer and recommended reversing some tech acquisitions, such as Facebook’s purchase of Instagram. Copland discussed restructuring how liability is determined online.

The debate, entitled “Should companies take political positions? took place at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

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