The Moral Compass of the Modern Corporation

Modern corporations these days crack me up. If one has followed the news recently, we see lots of moves by corporations pulling sponsorships or ad slots from shows that there has been lot so negative backlash from. The most recent has been Megyn Kelly’s interview of Alex Jones. For those not familiar, Alex Jones is someone in what is been labelled as the Alt Right movement who is controversial shock jock who has apparently stated, among other things, that the parts of the Sandy Hook shooting a few years ago was a “hoax”.

Now, there is much in that to unpack, and while others have discussed it ad nauseam, what I am choosing to highlight is the corporation’s responses. There are reports that some groups have pulled ads from the upcoming airing of Kelly’s interview with Alex Jones. Similarly, we’ve seen corporate sponsors pull out of the recent NCY Puerto Rican Day Parade because of the honoree being a member of the FALN Oscar Lopez Rivera. Why the controversy? Well, in the 1970s, the FALN did commit acts of domestic terrorism in NYC and the history behind it is worth the read. Again – yet another complex issue that has been debated ad nauseam that we see corporations taking a stance on.

So, what’s up with the corporations these days? Are they growing a true conscience? Or is this newly found conscience another way of capitalizing on opportunities to make profits?

My guess is the best way to answer those questions is to decide what is the expectations of how corporations are to operate. That one is still as complicated as some of the issues we have seen corporations weigh in on recently. Some companies and corporations have strived to balance the needs of being profitable with the needs of giving back to the community by supporting social causes. Many Fortune 500 companies have some charity work they do… I remember at the old job some big financial institution would come in annually and do workshop with young people on money management and resume writing.

Let’s state a fact: most of these companies use analytics to understand their markets and target demographics. So, if a company places an ad on a highly visible show or area where there is great viewership, increases brand recognition and potential consumers of the company’s products or services. Now there has been a shift over the past 20 years of social values in some demographics. For instance, my sister is very keen on sustainability – she needs to know where her food comes from and that the other products she consumes are from companies who have a positive environmental platform. Therefore, if big corporations try to appeal to her, she vets them via research and decides what she feels comfortable what she uses.

Some corporations have track records on certain issues, so pulling sponsorship from certain areas is OK by them – maybe their analytics have built in the potentially revenue lost from such a move and they are OK with that. Others may be capitalizing on make that move to get to consumers as my sister in the effort to rebrand their image. Guess it is ultimately up to us as the consumers to decide how best to shift through what the corporations are selling whenever taking a moral stance on an issue.

At the end of the day, companies still aim to make a profit, no matter how morally inclined they may be.

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