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Welcome to An Era of CEO Activism

Welcome to An Era of CEO Activism

Gone are the days when managers would shrink back from revealing their beliefs and viewpoints on matters that had little to do with their company’s routine endeavors.

Leaders should think carefully before jumping on the closest soapbox. Starbucks’s Founder and CEO Howard Schultz learned that the hard way in 2015 when he started the Race Together campaign in the aftereffects of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Schultz inspired Starbucks baristas to converse about race relations with customers whilst serving them their morning coffee. That didn’t come down with easy. In due course, Starbucks dialed back the initiative.

  • Topic: Race relations. Starbucks’ Howard Schultz got into hot water after he launched Starbucks’ Race Together campaign which encouraged baristas to talk about race with customers.
  • Topic: Vaccination. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg incurred the wrath of anti-vaccine commenters when he posted a picture of his Infant daughter visiting the doctor for routine vaccinations.
  • Topic: Common Core Education. ExxonMobil’s Rex Tillerson aroused the ire of education advocates when he referred to American students as “products” that companies simply don’t want to buy.
  • Topic: Global Warming. Unilever’s Paul Polman has publicly maintained that businesses and governments should commit to environmentally sustainable practices.
  • Topic: LGBT Rights. CEOs of Salesforce, Apple, Intel, Dow, Bank of America, Facebook, Yahoo! and others have come out against a wave of anti-LGBT legislation in several states.
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