Corporate Activism: The Puberty Stage

Corporations are exploring their political voice, and it's awkward.

Corporate Activism: The Puberty Stage

We are officially in weird times when it comes to how corporations are exploring their political activism. We’re in the voice-cracking adolescent phase, replete with everything from peacocking to tone-deaf behavior from companies trying to find their voice and political identity.

As one example, Expensify, an expense software company, sent an email to its 10 million subscribers last week urging them to vote for Joe Biden saying, “Anything less than a vote for Biden is a vote against democracy.”

In contrast, Coinbase, a cryptocurrency trading platform, roused ire from many when its CEO told staff that they should leave the company if they disagreed with the stated position that Coinbase should not engage in broader social issues or politics because they were distractions.

One can find fault with both approaches: neutrality is a fiction, every action is a political action in one way or another, and companies like Coinbase who bury their heads in the sand by proclaiming apolitical neutrality will struggle to quell employee insurrections and manage the bad optics of perceived tone-deafness.

But Expensify’s email pleading its customers to vote for Biden also appears like a desperate, awkward attempt to test the reaches and methods of its newly-discovered desire not to sit idly by. Such sensational and public statements might also convince companies they’re off the hook from doing more long-term structural work.

But on the whole, adolescence is a critical stage in any formation, and it requires bravery, experimentation, and awkwardness.