Young consumers — and possibly shareholders — are more inclined to respect companies that support their values.
A new report from the global public relations firm Weber Shandwick and KRC Research surveyed Americans on how they feel about “CEO activism” — when corporate officials make public statements on social issues. In recent years, more and more chief executives have been speaking up, urging the White House to remain in the Paris climate accord, criticizing regulations that limit gay rights, defending journalism amid accusations of “fake news” or criticizing dysfunction in Washington. As Apple CEO Tim Cook said last year: “For a company that’s all about empowering people through our products, and being a collection of people whose goal in life is to change the world for the better — it doesn’t sit right with me that you have that kind of focus, but you’re not making sure your carbon footprint isn’t poisoning the place. Or that you’re not evangelizing moving human rights forward.”
Millennials are the one group that sees this trend in a significantly positive way. In the survey, 56 percent of millennials said CEOs and other business leaders need to engage on hotly debated current issues more today than in the past, compared with just 36 percent of Gen Xers and 35 percent of baby boomers.Forty-seven percent of millennials said CEOs have a responsibility to speak up on social issues that are important to society, compared with just 28 percent of Americans in older generations. And millennials were the only generation in the survey in which the percentage of those who said they view CEOs more favorably for taking public positions actually expanded since last year, rather than declined.