HR Management & Compliance, Talent

Can Corporate Activism Improve Business Overall?

We’ve recently seen many companies take stands on social issues, such as Nike’s ads last fall supporting quarterback-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick or Dick’s Sporting Goods’ decision to restrict its own gun sales.


Editorial credit: Jeff Bukowski /

According to Ryan Derousseau, a contributor to Fortune, says that “companies are more willing to take sides on politically divisive issues.” He adds that these stances can be more than mere acts of principal. “They can boost sales,” he says, “luring customers who share the same views—albeit while alienating those who don’t—and helping brands stand out in crowded product categories.”

Employees May Appreciate Championing a Cause

Championing a cause can also be attractive to employees. As some experts say, the idea of working toward a cause is very important to many and can boost morale for existing employees while helping attract new talent. “Cause is about purpose: feeling that you make a meaningful impact, identifying with the organization’s mission, and believing that it does some good in the world. It’s a source of pride,” they say.
We talk a lot about the importance of attracting and retaining the best talent, especially in a tight labor market, but we also spend a lot of time discussing how employee engagement and dedication play into company culture and how those factors can be a big boost to recruitment and retention efforts. Why, then, wouldn’t more companies get into the “for a good cause” game?

Championing a Cause and the Bottom Line

Corporations are bound to pursue maximum profits for their shareholders, even though employee satisfaction is a key business goal—and by “bound,” we mean legally bound. Granted, happy employees often translate into increased profits, but employers can’t place shareholder earnings on the backburner in favor of creating a more inspiring environment for employees. The link is complicated, and it can be difficult to see that link through to the end.

Increasing Shareholder Value

The good news for those in favor of corporate advocacy is that it can go hand in hand with increased shareholder value. “Edgy statements often chase skittish investors away in the short term: The stocks of Dick’s, Nike, and Gillette parent Procter & Gamble fell sharply immediately after they made the moves described above,” says Derousseau.
“But Nike subsequently reported blockbuster growth, and all three stocks rebounded to outperform the S&P 500 through mid-February. (P&G hit an all-time high.) That’s a small sample size, to be sure, but it sends a message: Under the right conditions, speaking up can boost sales and customer loyalty, without weighing down share prices.”

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