The chasm between the 80% of people who didn’t vote for the President and his administration’s emerging policies is not surprising. It’s growing with every executive order. What’s more impressive is the speed. People are rallying against those policies in ways that move and grow faster than ever before.
If you’re a business leader, and you haven’t bolted upright at the recent mobilization of citizens around the country, you should set aside some time to think. People’s attitudes and society’s ideologies are more and more often delivered, debated and proven in real time through digital platforms. And as expected, social media is the conduit.
Social movements tearing through the public consciousness is the new status quo. For businesses, the speed and focus of citizen activism is poised to sweep up organizations in its wake. It’s shifting even the most strategically laid plans for the future.
The people’s passion for justice, equity, and inclusion has awoken on a global scale. In other words, we’ve come a long way from the ice bucket challenge. As people come together to speak truth to power, more often than not they are backing it up with action - alongside millions of others.
We’re continuing to move out of a time where talk only goes to go so far. Your actions matter more today than ever. For organizations that want to thrive, a rallying cry or a heartfelt donation is no longer going to be enough. Products will be judged, business models evaluated, and talk will be measured against action. Let’s take a look at some evidence of this;
- When millions of people are mobilizing en masse, a well-written statement of support falls flat. What gets attention? CEOs that appear in marches, just like the rest of us.
- #DeleteUber soldiers on, even though Travis Kalanick has backed away from earlier controversial statements. Why? Because the company’s actions, surge pricing, undercutting of taxi companies, and questionable lending, are catching up to it.
- Tech companies were accused of “silence as compliance,” but they are ramping up objections to potential cuts to H1B visas, likely to be the administration’s next target. Those words fall flat when contrasted with progress in their own diversity hiring initiatives. And the media is already taking note.
- Leaders like Tim Cook at Apple will be tested, likely by his own employees, even though he is talking about taking action behind the scenes.
- Elon Musk admitted to feeling down at the negative response to his appointment to a Trump advisory team. There were also canceled orders for Tesla’s model 3.
Now let’s look at how this movement impacts groups that are acting in support of an inclusive, just vision of society.
- The ACLU raised 6x what it usually raises online annually, in just a few days.
- Starbucks promised to hire 10,000 immigrants. A strong statement, backed by a history of action. This might have backfired if it weren’t for Starbucks’ track record of hiring for diversity and work in human rights.
- Climate activists re-mobilized in record time when the Keystone Pipeline proposal was put back on the table.
- And to prove that success through purpose is not a new phenomenon, last summer Unilever reported that its portfolio of Sustainable Living brands grew 30 percent faster than the rest of its business.
The world is moving incredibly fast. The only way to play it right, from a leadership and business strategy perspective, is to continue identifying and pushing the issues that are important, to your community and to the people you serve. Businesses will succeed when they act with business tools — where they have the most leverage. Examining and evolving business models, product strategies, and sustainability programs. As US citizens mobilize in record numbers on an almost daily basis, businesses will be called upon to pick a line. In an age where judgments of right and wrong course through digital platforms at the speed of sharing, it’s going to be strong, purpose-driven actions that decide which business will thrive.