New Harris Poll data finds that the American public is rooting for companies to make a positive difference on social issues, but there is a gap between urgency and perceived corporate impact:

  • This weekend we asked Americans how important it is that companies work to truly make a positive difference on specific societal issues and how much of a positive impact they have seen from corporate America. What we found is a large gap between the desire for corporate impact and the perceived positive impact from companies

  • The time to act is now: (58%) say companies should incorporate their views into advertising; (51%) say companies should speak out on racial inequality in America, but there is more work to be done on the inside: (43%) say companies have not done enough to increase diversity in their leadership and nearly a third (28%) say their employer has not made meaningful efforts internally to address racial inequality. 
  • The ‘company’ you keep matters: Reputation isn’t just messaging matching values but also the company you keep: Nearly three-quarters of Americans (72%) say companies should ensure businesses they do business with share similar standards when it comes to combating racial inequality (up 5 pts from last week) and (61%) say they are more likely to buy from companies that contribute to organizations that combat racism.
  • The public welcomes Corporate America to step up for racial inequality, but there is ground to make up: Eight in ten (82%) say it’s very/somewhat important to them personally, that companies work to truly make a positive difference on racial equality, but only (21%) say companies have made a very positive impact.
  • Also, the Harvard Harris Poll found (69%) of voters do not believe that news editors or CEOs should lose their jobs if they criticize Black Lives Matter, at the same time as 6 in 10 support corporations donating millions of dollars to the BLM movement.
  • One thing is clear, nobody wants to be a ‘Karen’. reports that Karen as a baby name is down 75%. 

Takeaway: What a company does is more important than what it says, and here, metrics matter. Company messaging is appropriate, but only if you have your house in order. This means representation in leadership, boards and a culture that isn’t toxic and stymying. It means eliminating biases in hiring and promotion; and design thinking around Black experience in your products, your customer satisfaction, your operations daily management interactions. Many companies (including ours) are behind, so set targets, show your struggles and find safe spaces for Black voices. Tie progress to compensation and performance and find other ways to make it stick. This isn’t window-dressing, but fundamental social, enterprise and personal change.

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John Gerzema


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