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CEO Activism in 2017: High Noon in the C-Suite

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CEO Activism in 2017: High Noon in the C-Suite Deck.

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CEO Activism in 2017: High Noon in the C-Suite

  1. 1. Increasingly, CEOs are speaking out publicly and taking stands on controversial issues. For example, CEOs have spoken up about social, political and environmental issues, such as climate change, income fairness, same-sex marriage, immigration, gun control and discrimination. 2 CEO Activism in 2017: High Noon in the C-Suite is the second annual nationwide poll conducted by Weber Shandwick in partnership with KRC Research about CEO activism, an evolving dynamic in which some chief executive officers have spoken out publicly on controversial issues. We surveyed Americans to provide companies with insights into how the public expects business leaders to respond to hot-button issues of the day. This study follows The Dawn of CEO Activism, a 2016 study that identified the risks and rewards for companies when their chief executives speak out on contentious issues.
  2. 2. 3 Over the past 12 months, the climate in the United States has changed dramatically as business and policy have intersected more deeply than ever before. Navigating how to communicate a company’s point of view in this environment is becoming increasingly complex and important. Future generations will only pay closer attention to how companies communicate around their values when it comes to deciding where to work or who to purchase from. Andy Polansky, CEO, Weber Shandwick
  3. 3. 4 Weber Shandwick partnered with KRC Research in March and April 2017 to conduct an online survey of 1,021 U.S. adults 18 years of age and older, representing the general population of America. It is the second annual wave of our CEO Activism research. For analysis purposes, and to gain critical insights for this report, we segmented this general population sample by generation, defined as follows: • Millennials: ages 18–36 (n=349) • Gen Xers: ages 37–52 (n=263) • Boomers: ages 53–71 (n=341)
  4. 4. 5 Looking at the American public overall, perspectives on CEO activism have not changed dramatically since 2016. That, however, is a surface finding: We found unmistakable signs generationally that cannot be ignored by business leaders. Compared to older generations, Millennial Americans are: • More aware of and favorable toward CEO activism • More likely to believe that CEOs should speak up on hot-button issues and think CEOs are more responsible to do so today than they used to be. They also recognize that there is a cost to CEOs remaining silent • More likely to take action when CEOs speak up on controversial issues and to buy from companies if they agree with the CEO’s stance • More likely to increase allegiance to own company if their CEO speaks up • More likely to see value in developing government relations in order to make their opinions known on hot button issues This report focuses on the impact Millennials will continue to make on the rising tide of CEO activism.
  5. 5. 48% of Millennials are aware of CEO activism, a higher level of awareness than one year ago and significantly higher than that of older generations. 6 Total Americans Millennials 2016 2017 2016 2017 Significantly higher than other generations
  6. 6. 35% of Americans believe CEOs have a responsibility to speak up about issues that are important to society. This support surges among Millennials to nearly half (47%). 7 Total Americans Millennials Not Sure No Yes Significantly higher than other generations
  7. 7. 56% of Millennials, significantly more so than older generations, believe CEOs have a greater obligation to speak out on issues than ever before. 8 Significantly higher than other generations
  8. 8. 42% of Millennials have a more favorable than unfavorable opinion (20%) of CEOs who take public positions. This positive sentiment has risen over the past year. 9 Don’t know Does not make a difference Less favorable More favorable Total Americans Millennials 2016 2017 2016 2017
  9. 9. Millennials perceive risks to companies when CEOs DO NOT speak out on hotly debated current issues. 10 47% 30% 26% 21% 21% 21% 14% 14% 12% 9% 39% 55% 33% 30% 25% 23% 24% 23% 18% 19% 13% 25% Criticism (net) Criticism from the media Criticism from customers Criticism from employees Decline in company sales Boycotts Company could be hurt financially Potential job candidates not applying to work at the company Employees quitting Criticism from the government Don’t know Total Americans Millennials Significantly higher than other generations
  10. 10. 51% of Millennials would be more likely to buy from a company led by a CEO who speaks out on an issue they agree with. This rate has increased since 2016 (46%). 11 Total Americans Millennials 2016 2017 2016 2017 Don’t know Would not make a difference Less likely More likely
  11. 11. 74% of Millennials who are aware of CEO activism have taken some action based on a CEO’s stance on an issue. They are most likely to have discussed the stance with others. 12 Any action (net) 66% 74% Decided not to buy from or boycotted the company 28% 17% Talked about the CEO's stance with friends/family 25% 26% (#1) Decided to buy more from the company 18% 21% (#3) Talked about the CEO's stance with coworkers 13% 23% (#2) Signed a petition addressed to the CEO or company 13% 17% Posted negatively about the CEO or company on social media 12% 17% Posted positively about the company on social media 9% 13% Joined a protest against the CEO or company 9% 14% Contacted the company to share opinion 9% 15% Made a decision to buy that company's stock 8% 14% Significantly higher than other generations
  12. 12. Nearly twice as many Millennials as average Americans express increased loyalty to their organization if their CEO took a public position on a hotly debated current issue. 13 Total Americans Millennials Don’t know Would not make a difference Would decrease loyalty to organization Would increase loyalty to organization Significantly higher than other generations
  13. 13. Half of Millennials (49%) agree that CEOs have a responsibility to meet with government officials to share their opinions on issues that are important to society. 14 Total Americans Millennials Not Sure Disagree Agree
  14. 14. Like Americans overall, Millennials feel most strongly that CEOs should voice opinions on jobs/skills training and equal pay. However, they are more likely than older generations to think CEOs should also speak up about societal issues, particularly LBGT rights and gun control. 15 70% 67% 62% 61% 48% 37% 34% 32% 29% 26% 26% 68% 63% 56% 61% 52% 43% 38% 38% 37% 34% 30% Total Americans Millennials Job/skills training Equal pay in the workplace Healthcare coverage Maternity/ paternity leave Gender equality Race relations Climate change Immigration LGBT rights Gun Control Refugees Significantly higher than other generations SOCIAL ISSUESWORKPLACE ISSUES
  15. 15. 16 Recognize the growing prevalence of CEO activism and Millennials’ expectations of this evolving dynamic. Firmly establish a link between the issue and the company’s values and business. Acknowledge the slippery generational slope. Millennials are the next generation of leadership. Strongly consider employees who may disagree. Discuss the pros and cons with the board. Estimate the price of silence. Millennials are watching closely.
  16. 16. 17 Fully commit time and resources. Price tag of CEO activism is high. Look in the mirror. Make sure there are no skeletons in the closet related to the issue that the CEO is speaking up about. Find partners to gather momentum. Strength in numbers. Consider the channels, messages and tone of voice used. Have a crisis preparedness plan for a potential social media firestorm. Develop a thick skin. Expect the pitchforks to come out.
  17. 17. For more information about CEO Activism in 2017: High Noon in the C-Suite, please contact: 18 Micho Spring Global Corporate Practice Chair Weber Shandwick mspring@webershandwick.com Leslie Gaines-Ross Chief Reputation Strategist Weber Shandwick lgaines-ross@webershandwick.com

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