How Has Political Divisiveness Impacted Corporate Sustainability?
In Australia, as with many other countries around the world, politician divisiveness is at an all time high with the polarisation of politics becoming increasingly severe.
The more divided our politicians, the longer it takes to get legislation passed and the more voters feel like they are not being heard by our leaders. Among these voters are people at the top of corporations and the owners of businesses.
Last year, we saw Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas, take a position in favour of the marriage equality debate. While Qantas has been involved in economic, social and environmental sustainability practices before now, this political stand was more than just a “feel good” commitment to our society or to the environment; it was a highly-debated stance which many questioned as to whether it was a part of his role or if he had stepped out of line.
In this debate, Alan Joyce voiced an opinion and a concern shared by the majority of Australians, which was demonstrated in the recent postal survey. Joyce stood up at times many politicians failed to do so. The inaction of many politicians on this issue caused Qantas to become bolder in their stance on issues around economic, social and environmental sustainability.
Similarly in the US, we are seeing corporations stepping up to take measures into their own hands when it comes to gun control. The recent Thousand Oaks shooting was the 307th mass shooting in the US this year. November 7 was the 311th day of the year, putting mass shooting statistics in the US at approximately an average of one per day for 2018 thus far. With very little political action being taken around ensuring gun control in the US, companies have taken matters into their own hands by restricting the sale of certain types of guns and restricting the sale of guns to persons under 21 years of age. Some companies have also ceased to give discounts to NRA members.
Issues like gun control in the United States and marriage equality in Australia are largely controversial issues, but they have become part of corporate sustainability agendas as many who head up these companies feel like their role as a leader is to take action towards a more sustainable future. This major shift towards more controversial topics when it comes to corporate sustainability could continue well into the future with companies taking on more activist roles as political polarisation increases.
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