What was business leaders’ role in President Trump’s abrupt flip on imposing tariffs on Mexico?
First, the response was right in the crosshairs of classic issues management:
Prioritize action on oncoming issues by how much they can affect your organization and by how much your organization can affect the outcomes.
But it was also a premier example of such success measured by relevance, immediacy, scale and impact.
An Axios report-analysis may have summarized it best.
“Trump’s blunt use of presidential leverage … appears to have caused an unintended side effect: U.S. business leaders have begun urgently discussing strategies to claw back [presidents’] virtually unchecked trade powers … Trump’s threat to impose rising tariffs … sparked a widespread panic in the U.S. business community and turned their conversations in an unprecedented direction, these sources said.
“John Murphy, who runs international policy at the Chamber of Commerce, tweeted, ‘In the space of a few hours … more than 140 business and agricultural organizations signed (the) statement opposing tariffs on goods from Mexico.’
Quoting another top industry source involved, Axios reported this analysis:” I think you’re going to see a longer term business community effort to help Congress reassert its authority on tariffs.”
Elsewhere this week on the spectrum of brands taking stands, the increasingly divisive abortion issue generated a somewhat different model. More than 200 CEOs of companies across the country published, in effect, a workplace manifesto in a Monday New York Times full page advertisement:
” Don’t Ban Equality” “It’s time for companies to stand up for reproductive health care.”
Two distinguishing characteristics here, as compared to the business-vs.-Mexico-tariffs campaign:
In taking this stand on a highly controversial issue, the signatories explicitly channeled what they interpreted as employee and customer interests and values on “equality” (relevance); and they bonded with national issue-oriented organizations:
“We the undersigned, employ more that 108,000 workers and stand against policies that hinder people’s health, independence, and ability to fully succeed in the workplace …
“Equality in the workplace is one of the most important business issues of our time … Restricting access to comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion, threatens health, independence and economic stability of our employees and customers. Simply put, it goes against our values, and it’s bad for business. It impairs our ability to build diverse and inclusive workforce pipelines, recruit top talent across states, and protect the well-being of all people who keep our business thriving day in and day out.”
Business leader support for the Don’t Ban Equality campaign was facilitated by issue-oriented national organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, NARAL Pro-Choice America, The America Civil Liberties Union and Center for Reproductive Rights.
The spectrum of business leaders taking on major socio-economic issues in the public forum — as well as their strategies and tactics — appears to be expanding.