For a few moments, put aside the current highly divisive debate on whether companies should take public positions on political and social issues and consider this:
A growing number of companies in the U.S. and Europe are offering their employees seminars on democratic principles and the dangers of conspiracy theories – civics training that is nonpartisan and entirely voluntary for employees.
The New York Times reports that there are now sound business reasons, as well as civic responsibilities, for companies to undertake such initiatives:
“Businesses are finding they need to bolster their employees in the face of increasingly vitriolic political debate. Seminars on civics and democratic principles – such as the importance of voting or recognizing the dangers of disinformation, conspiracy theories and hate speech – have become a way to ensure healthier relationships in the workplace and society as a whole. In addition, reports show that economic growth is higher in stable democracies, and liberal border policies allow companies to attract skilled immigrants.”
There is reason to hope that this extension of the corporate social responsibility mandate has promise. A cottage industry of counseling organizations has recently evolved to assist hundreds of companies interested in this new employee – and society – benefit:
“Groups like the Business Council for Democracy and Weltoffenss Sachsen in Germany and Civic Alliance for the Leadership Now Project in the United States organize workshops …provid[ing] research and webinars and support civic education and get-out-the-vote efforts – all of it nonpartisan. Most are nonprofit organizations, backed by independent foundations or a group of businesses that rely on their political independence as a selling point.”
More broadly, , leading national associations of communication professionals could well become vehicles for promoting this socially positive initiative widely. For example, in 2021, The Public Relations Society of America, with some 21,000 participants – professionals, educators, and students – established its “Voices4Everyone” program to encourage civic engagement and civility in discourse – as well as addressing disinformation and diversity, inclusion and equity.
Its mission: “V4E supports a national conversation building mutual understanding, trust, and civic engagement through more inclusive civil discourse.”
As for corporate motivation, “Steven Levine, director of the Civic Alliance, a nonpartisan coalition in the United States of over 1,300 businesses, including Microsoft, McDonald’s, Target and Ecolab [ offers this]: ‘Companies have seen themselves in recent years as an important collective stabilizing force in helping ensure that norms of democracy are upheld.’’’