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It’s hard to stand up for your values while staying out of politics

July 11, 2022, 10:50 AM UTC

Good morning.

Since the release of my book Tomorrow’s Capitalist last month, I’ve had several opportunities to speak to groups of CEOs who are grappling with the challenges of the new world of stakeholder capitalism. On the one hand, all feel the rising pressures from employees, customers, investors and others to boost their returns to people and planet, and they see the benefits of invigorating their companies with a renewed sense of social purpose. But on the other, they nearly all are desperate to avoid the buzzsaw of today’s politics. And standing up for your values while staying out of politics, it turns out, is a fiendishly difficult thing to do. Just ask Disney CEO Bob Chapek.

So kudos to the Page Society for attempting to pen a guidebook to the challenge, out this morning. It’s aimed at chief communication officers, because they are the ones who manage the company message. But it’s worthy reading for anyone helping to lead a large corporation through the thicket of issues that arise when employees, customers, institutional investors, and just about everyone else feel like they have a say in the company’s actions.

I asked Page president Roger Bolton, who has worked on both sides of the business-politics divide, his advice on how companies should navigate it. His answer:

The goal can’t be to stay out of controversy; it’s unavoidable. But the key is to stay close to your own values and stand up on the issues that are most critical to your company and its stakeholders, and where you can make a difference. It’s important to explain to stakeholders why you take the stands you do and why you can’t weigh in on everything.”

The Page report emphasizes that a company’s words must be consistent with its actions. At the end of the day, those actions will speak louder than words. Says Bolton:

Don’t forget to focus on the societal value you create with your products and services, and to take bold actions on ESG to make sure you are contributing to the long-term health of your enterprise and of society.”

You can read the full report here.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray

alan.murray@fortune.com

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This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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