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David A. Katz and Laura McIntosh. Courtesy photos David A. Katz and Laura McIntosh. Courtesy photos

Political engagement traditionally has been viewed as a no-win situation for a public company or a public company chief executive officer. In a sharply divided nation, taking sides on a controversial topic can instantly alienate half of a company’s stakeholders, from investors and customers to suppliers and employees. These days, however, silence can also be viewed as a political statement, which places public companies in a difficult position. While the incursion of sociopolitical issues into the business world has slowly gained momentum over the last decade, it has recently accelerated due to major societal upheavals, high-profile foreign affairs and trade issues, and an election cycle like no other, all in the unrelenting spotlight of 24/7 news and social media. At the moment, corporate America is under pressure from many directions and is widely viewed as a potentially powerful—albeit reluctant—agent of sociopolitical change.

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