The violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was a “watershed moment” for businesses, forcing many to reconsider their civic responsibilities alongside their corporate values, says Wharton management professor Michael Useem.
Several companies set aside profits in their decisions immediately following the deadly riot, when thousands of Donald Trump supporters stormed the capitol to stop Congress from certifying the election of Joe Biden as the 46th president. Twitter lost a reported $5 billion in market value after taking Trump permanently off its platform. Delta, United, American and Southwest airlines temporarily banned firearms on all flights to Washington, D.C. And vacation rental site Airbnb blocked and canceled all reservations in the metro area for inauguration week.
Those decisions show how companies are stepping up to “make a difference where they can make a difference,” Useem says. “What’s really significant here is these kinds of actions weren’t commonly seen at all, but now they have become widespread in the wake of the events of Jan. 6. So, it’s a watershed.”
According to Useem, executives and boards of directors across America are rethinking what it means to do business in a democracy in the wake of the attack. Staying out of the political fray is “a stripe of the past,” especially when so much is at stake, he says. Employees, consumers and other stakeholders want companies to get involved. In fact, they demand it.
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