A recent NY Times article, The Sunny Side of Greed by Op-Ed columnist Frank Bruni, argues that corporations may well now be among the strongest socially progressive forces in the country. In issue after issue, - e.g., marriage equality, the confederate flag, immigration reform, - the business community has supported what we generally think of as the more socially progressive position.
“Are these companies acting in their own interests?,” asks Bruni. “Absolutely. They’re trying to make sure that laws and local customs don’t prevent them from attracting and retaining the best work force. They’re burnishing their brands in a manner that they hope will endear them to customers. But those efforts, coupled with whatever genuine altruism and civic obligation some corporate leaders feel, have produced compelling recent examples of companies showing greater sensitivity to diversity, social justice and the changing tides of public sentiment than lawmakers often manage to.”
While our politicians are paralyzed by ideological arguments and partisan bickering, corporations seem to have little trouble embracing the more pragmatic positions that seem to better reflect the overall mood of the country on social issues like immigration and same-sex marriage. The reason isn’t all that difficult to understand. Many politicians must respond to the wishes of a few big donors and of small, single-issue interest groups in their districts. But companies, especially those with national and global brands, must be responsive to a much larger, diverse constituency, namely their customers.