The headlines for July 4 were sadly very American. A march for white supremacy in Boston, a mass shooting in Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, a Black man who was shot 60 times by police and a 10-year-old rape victim who was denied access to an abortion in her home state of Ohio. This is America…and what are we going to do about it? As businesspeople, you may believe that social issues are not your thing or your responsibility. However, none of us are in a place where we can ignore the realities of the world around us.  

America purports to be the land of the free and the brave, yet for the past several years we have let a minority of scared and sanctimonious people lead. But the majority, including the generations who will inherit the earth, want a new way forward, and business has a major role in ensuring that happens. 

Businesses hold a lot of political power. The strong political lobbying power held by business has only grown since Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision giving corporations personhood, which led to dark money flooding elections. Given that reality, what are we going to do with our power? Can we push our structures to start caring about social issues? 

It’s shortsighted to support politicians only on the basis of being the friendliest to our business issues, while ignoring the biggest issue of where they stand on social policy. Your employees, investors and community care and so should you, as a business leader and a citizen.  

Millennials are the first generation in American history willing to take a pay cut to work for companies that align with their values. Eighty-six percent of Millennials to be specific. Where your company stands on these issues actually could affect the talent you are able to attract and retain.  

Where You Can Help 

Business leaders are going to have to take a stand on important issues and let their voices be heard in a way that is authentic and meaningful. Disney found that out way too publicly as it tried to placate homophobic politicians while also keeping the gay community happy when talking about LGBTQ+ issues. Knowing where a majority of Americans stand on these issues can help you see how best to respond to the community you work in.   

Gun Control: A Gallup poll found that 52 percent of people support gun control. A Public Policy Polling survey found 83 percent of people support universal background checks, including 72 percent of NRA members.   

Reproductive Choice: A recent Pew Center poll showed that 61 percent of Americans believe women should not be forced to have children. Statistics show that 23 percent of women have had an abortion, and 19 percent of them before they were 30.  

Police Brutality: Six in 10 Americans think policing needs “major changes.” According to a report citing Mapping Police Violence data, Black people, who account for 13 percent of the U.S. population, accounted for 27 percent of those fatally shot and killed by police in 2021.  

White Supremacy: White supremacy domestic terrorism has grown over the past 20 years, rising sharply during President Barack Obama’s second term. According to the Brookings Institute, the number of hate groups has grown over 100 percent and hate crimes were 200 percent higher in places where Donald Trump campaigned.  

These eye-opening trends define America today. Along with the sobering headlines from the July 4 weekend, it is all too apparent the magnitude of the issues affecting the people who work for you and the communities you finance and develop. It’s no longer good business to deny the numbers that the majority of people want things to change. When businesses avoid rocking the boat or getting into uncomfortable conversations with friends at the club, then authoritarianism wins. While businesses may be scared of political pushback, it’s important to remember corporate money is the life blood of politics and it’s hard to bite the hand that feeds you.   

It’s time to do a quick audit to see which politicians you and your company have been supporting. Talk to your business associations. What are you going to fight for? Americans want change and they are collecting receipts and calling people out. Funding the wrong side of history is going to be costly.  

It’s time to make it right, for everyone. 

Malia Lazu is a lecturer in the Technological Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Strategic Management Group at the MIT Sloan School of Management, CEO of The Lazu Group and former Eastern Massachusetts regional president and chief experience and culture officer at Berkshire Bank.  

America: What Are We Going to Do About It?

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 3 min