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A very common advice that people give out (used to give out?) is to avoid discussing politics and religion especially when in general company such as in a workplace or school environment. I've found this advice to work really well for people who take it and it works great for myself as well.

After the George Floyd incident I've noticed a huge surge in companies taking political sides and even donating huge sums of money sometimes in excess of one hundred million dollars to BLM causes. Similar things have been going on for some time but perhaps at a smaller scale. I've noticed that companies typically have a position on homosexuality for reasons that I do not understand.

I am very confused on the purpose of doing this because it's a political position which means that people are going to a wide variety of opinions. I've noticed that when a company takes a political stand it will alienate people opposed to the political stance the company takes. Sometimes it even turns out that the political stance differs from a majority of their customers or those are are ultimately responsible for the companies success. The end result in any case is a loss of revenue and harm to the business.

In addition I suspect in most cases donations to organizations which support a political position unrelated to what the company does would not stand up to any cost benefit analysis. The end result is an immediate loss of money without ever getting it back in benefit.

So why are companies doing this? My theory is that certain rouge employees have a strong stance on unrelated political positions and they are abusing company resources to advocate for their own stance.

My view is the best thing to do is avoid commenting on any unrelated political position. If someone tries to get a company to comment on something that doesn't relate to their business I believe the best solution is to ignore the request if at all possible or specifically decline to comment. I've noticed when political stances are unknown people tend to assume that have the same beliefs as the person who's stance is unknown. This is excellent because everyone will be happy with the company who doesn't comment.

In addition I sometimes perceive that what is going on is that people and computer programs on social media are commenting on the companies page and the people who are doing the commenting have never purchased a product or done business with the company nor do they ever plan to but this influences the company to take a stand on a political position.

Has anyone been involved in these decisions? If so would you be able to offer any insight?

Also note that this question is about unrelated political stances. For example I completely understand why a company would lobby for lower taxes or less regulations in the industry they deal as an example. Also I understand why a tech company would donate to an organization that teaches programming as another example.

I thank everyone in advance who read this question and provided their insight. Please note that I am not interested at this time in discussing the merits of any political positions.

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    This question is off-topic for this stack. – Ernest Friedman-Hill Jun 20 '20 at 17:53
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    Perhaps this is a such a significant point of reckoning in our culture that even corporations are taking notice and responding? I think they're at least acknowledging it and taking steps towards what they know is right. Unfortunately, it's also possible that some are merely giving lip-service to the idea to avoid being labeled as regressive. It will be clear soon enough who is merely making empty PR gestures and who is authentic. – teego1967 Jun 20 '20 at 19:27
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    I’m voting to close this question because subjective questions of the type listed here are off-topic: workplace.stackexchange.com/help/dont-ask. At least 3 of the bullet points under "avoid" apply here. – BSMP Jun 20 '20 at 20:33
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    I often wonder this myself. Especially how some companies publicize they are LGBTQ supporters. What does this even mean? – kdroit Jun 20 '20 at 20:38
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    Do you have an example/quotation of a single company donating in excess of 100 million dollars to "BLM causes" recently ? – thieupepijn Jun 20 '20 at 20:39
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Overwhelming Support and Solid PR

  1. Few people disagree with the statement "Black Lives Matter." And as a general rule and donating to a few anti-racism charities, that is all the companies are doing. The sentiment is universal enough to make it suitable for marketing. Those who do disagree keep quiet for fear of losing their jobs. The reason that politics is avoided in the workplace is to avoid angry fights. The lack of disagreement with the overarching theme prevents those angry fights.

  2. It is very cheap marketing. Many corporate initiatives have made CNN and the New York Times. Plenty of local coverage of initiatives has happened as well. The earned media from this is enormous. Plenty of declarations are being shared around LinkedIn. The donations are not all that large in the context of marketing budgets. The costs are even lower when you consider tax deductions and that many of the donations are in-kind.

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    +1 This, plus it's a clear statement of support for black and other minority employees. It's basically a form of marketing on the recruitment side if people have a sense that the company will have their back in difficult times. – Julia Hayward Jun 20 '20 at 18:35
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    What I'm still confused on is I would expect that silence has 100% approval which is greater than whatever percentage the political position has. #2 especially makes sense to me however. It's cost effective marketing. I didn't think of that but it makes sense. – Mr. Chem Question Jun 20 '20 at 19:02
  • @Mr.ChemQuestion no as in this case, people are attacking "silence as violence." – Matthew Gaiser Jun 20 '20 at 19:04
  • @MatthewGaiser Thank you! This is finally starting to make sense. I still believe that silence is neutral however this really helped understand why someone else might think that silence is bad. – Mr. Chem Question Jun 20 '20 at 19:06
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    Yes, they're not taking a stance per se, they're backing a popular and very public movement at no risk and limitless potential gain. – Kilisi Jun 21 '20 at 4:44
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It's never precisely clear what is political and what is not. For example:

I think the [Party] should win the next election

is clearly a political position.

Meanwhile,

Drunk driving is a crime and it's terrible when people die as a result of drunk driving

is not (in 2020.)

Companies make non-controversial political statements all the time. You know,

  • small business is the backbone of our economy
  • this is the greatest country in the world
  • at this time of unprecedented blah blah covid, we're all in this together
  • our soldiers are brave and wonderful and we honour their sacrifice
  • people who drive pickup trucks and work with their hands built this country and all we stand for [buy our pickup trucks]
  • parents are marvelous and always take care of you; being a parent is the highest calling there is [buy our tissues or diapers or soap or soup]
  • people who get up really early for sports practice or their jobs are the backbone of this country [buy our coffee]

Over time, things migrate. There was a time when

Women are capable of working alongside the men we already employ and can be good at the same jobs

was an insanely political position that few firms would adopt. Now, it's something that all companies at least claim to believe, though in reality many do not act in accordance with their stated belief.

When Black Lives Matter first started it was shocking. I'm not going to go into the details, it's out of scope here. But clearly, whether it's "political" or not is shifting. Has it shifted all the way to "motherhood and apple pie" statements that companies make all the time? Probably not. But it's moving in that direction. One of the ways you can tell is by how many big companies are, as you've observed, making donations and statements and such. The very reason they are doing that is that it is not as political a thing to do as it was a year ago, or when it started.

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    This makes sense. They are doing it because they believe that it's not as controversial as it once was. What I wonder is how close their perception is to reality. When I look at sentiment online about BLM I see that is all over the place. However I try to research all sides so it's not surprising that I think about this. People who tend to associate mostly with those who agree with them may believe that this is broad support or opposition to BLM depending on who they hang out with. – Mr. Chem Question Jun 20 '20 at 20:22
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    Also note that even if turns out to be less popular then some might perceive it does not change the validity of your answer because it address what a company is thinking when choosing to take a stand. – Mr. Chem Question Jun 20 '20 at 20:24
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Police violence against black people is a bad thing, so I think it is a good thing that (large) companies speak out against it.

However I do think that partly the reason companies are quite vocal about this issue and some others is that in these cases it is relatively cheap and safe for them to do so.

Would, for example, Apple speak out against the treatment of the Uyghurs in China or abusive worker conditions in third world countries, it would be far riskier for them or require some costly changes in their own policies.

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    Thank you for contributing. You have brought up an excellent point about how companies avoid tougher political issues that could also be classified as human rights. This supports the other answers that it's based on cost. – Mr. Chem Question Jun 20 '20 at 21:06
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I can think of various reasons a company might take a political stance:

  1. It benefits the business.
  2. It benefits the owner.
  3. It benefits investors, who will be more likely to lend you money.
  4. It benefits customers, who will be more likely to buy from you.
  5. It benefits (prospective) employees, who will be more likely to work for you.

Perception matters, and political statements are a very cheap way to alter that perception.

Sure, a political statement might alienate people who disagree - but that risk can often be mitigated by using different messaging for the various focus groups. For instance, an IT company might advertise a stance on socially progressive causes to attract employees, while using an entirely different language when addressing its conservative customers.

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  • The it benefits the $(entity) list is interesting and I was wondering about. Maybe there is a way that taking a stand results in a net gain for the company? Also mentioning targeted the message is interesting as well. I didn't consider that point but you are right that especially with modern technology it's possible to do that. – Mr. Chem Question Jun 20 '20 at 19:33
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Interesting that you mention both BLM and gay rights in your post but no other political issues. I'm hard-pressed to see either as 'political issues'; they are in fact issues of basic human rights.

While they may well be addressed and resolved via political means, that does not denigrate them to 'political issues' that are often addressed at the varying whim of those in political power at any given time.

In the US basic human rights are considered as above political control. Although our history clearly shows that politics, laws, and dogma have been used to deny rights to groups, classes, and individuals and to purposefully impinge upon the very rights that some take for granted.

Companies, at least in recent times, often take a stance on these types of issues for a number of reasons outlined in other answers. In addition, when a company makes a public statement or declaration on such core concerns they are showing a level of maturity and responsibility that resonates with their customers.

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  • I enjoy meeting people who have a wide variety of viewpoints. I've met people all across the spectrum (from strongly support to strongly oppose) on both of these issues. However your contribution is still very helpful because it explains what a company may be thinking when choosing support BLM or gay rights. – Mr. Chem Question Jun 20 '20 at 19:14

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