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Voices & Opinion

When corporations take a stance on divisive issues

Billboards featuring San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick are part of Nike's relaunched "Just Do It" ad campaign. Kaepernick's political and social activism have been a source of controversy, yet Rochester political scientist David Primo notes that more corporations are choosing to tackle, rather than avoid, divisive issues. (Getty Images photo)

Corporations such as Nike and Chick-fil-A have made headlines by taking positions on divisive issues. But is it wise for corporations to take political stands? How does doing so affect their image, customer loyalty, and ultimately their bottom line?

David Primo, the Ani and Mark Gabrellian Professor and an associate professor of political science and business administration at the University of Rochester, appeared recently on Capitol Pressroom, a WCNY radio production, to discuss mixing advocacy and business. Primo, an expert in American politics, campaign finance, and corporate social responsibility, was joined on the radio show by New York State Assemblyman Sean Ryan, a Democrat from Buffalo.

“Traditionally companies have wanted to stay out of the political fray when it comes to contentious social issues,” Primo told host Susan Arbetter. But he added that corporations are increasingly being pushed by their employees or customers to take stances on hot-button topics.

“The challenge that a corporation faces is pretty much, no matter which position you take on a contentious social issue, you are going to alienate some customers. So really it’s a matter of picking your poison: which set of customers do you want to alienate?”

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