2021 Ushers in a New Era of Corporate Activism

Jan 15, 2021 4:15 PM ET

2021 Ushers in a New Era of Corporate Activism

In wake of last week’s insurrection at the United States Capitol building, we are seeing a new wave of corporate activism emerge. In the past, it was standard operating procedure for brands to steer clear of the political conversation altogether. And while in recent years we’ve seen companies take stances on political issues – such as access to voting, social justice and climate change – they would often stop short of calling out individual politicians or blocking resources to persons inciting hate and violence. This week, we examine how companies are breaking tradition to take more drastic steps around politics, in an effort to protect democracy.

  • Revising PAC Contributions: This week, many companies have announced that they will be ceasing donations to political members who opposed certifying the presidential election. A few brands are taking this notion even further by reexamining their internal political support criteria. The companies making these announcements span from financial institutions like Bank of America, to major retailers like Walmart, and delivery providers such as FedEx. The decision is reinforced by research Porter Novelli conducted last year that shows 60 percent* of Americans would boycott a company if they found out it makes political contributions that are not in alignment with the issues the company says it stands for.
  • Requesting PAC Refunds: Hallmark Cards is going a step further by asking that its donations to politicians who disputed the verification of the election be returned. The Kansas-based brand stated that “The recent actions of Senators Josh Hawley and Roger Marshall do not reflect our company’s values. As a result, HALLPAC requested Sens. Hawley and Marshall to return all HALLPAC campaign contributions.”
  • Blocking Access to Products/Services: In response to increasing reports of hate groups traveling to disrupt the Inauguration, Airbnb announced it will be canceling all reservations made in the Washington, D.C. area next week. The short-term rental company is refunding reservations, compensating hosts and even blocking new reservations to make it clear that hate groups oppose its community guidelines. This is not the first time the brand has decided to block reservations from certain groups to protect the local area and its hosts – in 2017 Airbnb canceled accounts of known white supremacists before the Charlottesville ‘Unite the Right’ rally.

Prove Your Purpose has been reporting on Purpose-based companies’ actions for over a decade but 2021 has presented a new moment in time in this evolution. Is this an indicator of a new wave of corporate activism, or is this just a temporary defensive phase when American politicians and their supporters went too far? Stay tuned for more reporting on how companies are evolving their Purpose in the quickly changing political landscape.

*For more information on this research please contact us at proveyourpurpose@porternovelli.com