Companies: Put Your Money Where Your Mouths Are

July 27, 2020 LRN Corporation

The disparity between what some companies say and where they’ve donated money was the topic of a recent article by Andrew Ross Sorkin in The New York Times’ DealBook.

Companies such as Walmart, Microsoft, and AT&T, who often champion important social and environmental causes, have indirectly funded political efforts that are in direct contrast to the messages they publicly voice.

“Companies aren’t paying attention; they give to these group and that’s essentially where their due diligence stops,” Bruce Freed of the Center for Political Accountability told Sorkin.

Some of the biggest companies in the U.S. have funded “severe restrictions on or prohibitions of abortions, the rolling back of LGBTQ rights, the filing of lawsuits challenging federal climate change initiatives, and gerrymandering, some of it racially motived,” while publicly supporting the opposite, said Freed.

Following an analysis of political donations made by companies between 2009 and 2018 by the Center for Political Accountability, a nonpartisan organization that tracks political disclosures, Sorkin wrote several high-profile cases of companies “talk the talk” but don’t always “walk the walk.” 

While Microsoft often supports sustainability measures, and is working on a plan to eliminate its carbon emissions, it donated money to the Republican Governors Association, which helped elect Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania in 2010. Corbett helped to reduce emissions standards for the oil and gas industry. 

AT&T, which has voiced support for the LGBTQ community, and says its policies have prohibited discrimination against employees based on sexual orientation since the 1970s, gave money to the Republican Attorneys General Association. The association helped elect Pat McCrory in North Carolina in 2012, who signed the “bathroom bill” requiring transgender people to use public bathrooms that corresponded to the gender on their birth certificate. The bill later was overturned.

Walmart, which touts its employees as heroes for putting their health at risk to work during the COVID-19 pandemic, donated money to the Republican Attorneys General Association, which supported the reelection of Ken Paxton of Texas. Paxton leads a group of states in a Supreme Court case looking to overturn major parts of the Affordable Care Act.

Google, Sony, and Target say they support Black Lives Matter, but have PACs that directly donated to the election campaign of Georgia Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who says she’s “adamantly” opposed to the group, the article stated.

Many corporate donations are to certain state-level political groups, or “527s” that allow companies to give money to candidates without sending it to a specific individual. Of the $1.3 billion raised in 2009-2018 by Democratic and Republican governors associations, state legislative campaign committees, and attorneys general associations, 46%-close to $600 million-came from public companies and their trade associations. 

While it’s true many companies give money to organizations on both sides of the political spectrum, and have no control over how the money is used, a portion of their donations may go to people or causes that those companies don’t support on their own. Sorkin points out 527 donations, no matter the size, can have a huge impact on state-level elections, sometimes with an end result that may be against a company’s public stance.

Perhaps one of the big takeaways here is the importance of due diligence. Maybe the first step for companies is to extend the necessary due diligence to reflect their ethical cultures and stated social and environmental causes.

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By combining values-based education, rich insights, and expert advisory services into innovative, comprehensive solutions, LRN can help elevate behavior and the bottom line for your company.

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