How Corporate Activism Makes a Difference and Drives a Bottom Line

GayPride_bg

Carter Collins, Account Executive, VOX Dallas, co-authored this article.

It’s June. That means the rainbow flag is everywhere throughout corporate America.

The month, the anniversary of the LGBT rights movement, gives companies a platform to show support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ+) community — including their employees and customers.

It’s easy to dismiss these gestures as rainbow marketing aimed at younger, urban consumers. Yet, a closer look at two cities, and some big-name brands, suggests that purposeful corporate activism runs deeper and has the potential to create inclusive communities and drive economic growth.

While the Supreme Court granted marriage equality for LGBTQ+ Americans in 2015, corporations helped create a culture that embraced the decision and have advocated for related civil rights issues that affect their employees and their bottom line.

Importantly, cities that have taken note are reaping rewards in new jobs and large corporate investments. Both Indianapolis and the greater Dallas-Fort Worth region make this point abundantly clear.

The Indiana tech-scene recently celebrated the arrival of Salesforce tower — and the 800 jobs, 500 new apprenticeships and spin-off economic development. But business leaders were quick to point out that such investment would only happen if two things happened: Indianapolis’ existing non-discrimination ordinance remained and Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was repealed.

During the RFRA fight, which critics charged opened the door to discrimination against LGBT Hoosiers, Indiana’s corporate titans sent an unmistakable message: there are real and significant economic consequences to discriminatory policies.

Today, the new Indianapolis skyline as both a beacon for high-tech talent and evidence of American’s investment to heartland. All possible when communities and industry combined to create an inclusive, business-friendly culture.

The climate in the Dallas-Fort Worth area has been different, but equally reliant on corporate activism.

In 2014, when Toyota USA announced they would move their headquarters from California to Plano, Texas, they faced a major workforce challenge. Their LGBT employees would lose nondiscrimination laws in the workplace. While Toyota had, and still has, inclusive policies, other companies in Texas could fire their employees for being LGBTQ+. This change risked alienating employees and their spouses; putting Toyota at a disadvantage in the global fight for talent.

So they went to work. Toyota advocated for nondiscrimination ordinances with Plano’s city council and won.

Since then, the city has received billions of dollars in new investment as companies expand their operations alongside Toyota. The car manufacturer’s voice mattered and accelerated the city’s transformation. Today, Toyota joins 20 other Fortune 500 companies in the DFW area, like AT&T, who loudly convince legislators from passing discriminatory laws.

For both Salesforce and Toyota, the fight for inclusive policies was about more than ‘feel-good’ activism. It had real-world implications.

When done right, corporate activism supports core business objectives, engages employees and reflects corporate values. But successful activism requires companies to answer key questions:

How does an issue affect our employees and our key stakeholders (customers, investors and community)? What are our values? How do those values fit within our brand? What actions are we willing to take to make an impact?

Armed with answers, companies can then build a framework for action: Fund aligned advocacy organizations. Convene thought leaders within the industry. Support identity groups within the company. Target stakeholders through digital advertising. And increase CEO thought leadership around solutions.

Today’s issues are evolving and changing, so companies should establish a clear decision-making process to engage. They should know how to capitalize on opportunities in real time and avoid reputational hazards along the way. With honest conversations and careful planning, businesses and communities can both drive and be rewarded for their social leadership.

This article appeared in Inside Indiana Business, June 20, 2017

How Corporate Activism Makes a Difference and Drives a Bottom Line

GayPride_bg

Carter Collins, Account Executive, VOX Dallas, co-authored this article.
It’s June. That means the rainbow flag is everywhere throughout corporate America.
The month, the anniversary of the LGBT rights movement, gives companies a platform to show support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ+) community — including their employees and customers.
It’s easy to dismiss these gestures as rainbow marketing aimed at younger, urban consumers. Yet, a closer look at two cities, and some big-name brands, suggests that purposeful corporate activism runs deeper and has the potential to create inclusive communities and drive economic growth.
While the Supreme Court granted marriage equality for LGBTQ+ Americans in 2015, corporations helped create a culture that embraced the decision and have advocated for related civil rights issues …

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