Corporate Engagement on Social Issues: A Snapshot
In our issue analytics practice, we help clients understand the landscape of issues that impact corporate reputation. But where are companies themselves engaging?
To answer this question, we analyzed the Twitter output of 1,000 top companies and brands across nearly 300 social and political debates over the first 100 days of 2019.
The insights captured below add up to an overarching theme: companies see themselves as important players in the social and policy debates of our time. They are speaking – and engaging – to a greater degree than ever before. We hope you find these insights useful.
Rob Gluck, Managing Partner, High Lantern Group
Matt Levy, Senior Director, HLG Analytics
1. Gender equality is the #1 corporate issue.
More companies and CEOs communicated on this topic than any other (many in celebration of International Women’s Day in March). Workplace diversity is a close second, as many companies tout their inclusion practices. Other major areas of engagement include technology & innovation; talent & workplace; and the environment & sustainability.
2. CEO engagement on Twitter.
Of 1,000 top corporate CEOs, roughly 10% are on Twitter, with most making only infrequent use of the platform, tweeting about issues on average once every 2 weeks. Below are the top 10 in terms of engagement (retweets and favorites). Top topics for CEOs include: new technologies (like AI, 5G, and self-driving vehicles), healthcare affordability, enhancing privacy protections, passage of the Equality Act, and climate change. Notable CEOs outside the top 10: GM’s Mary Barra (28) and Starbucks’ Kevin Johnson (30), McDonald’s Steve Easterbrook (38), Hyatt’s Mark Hoplamazian (60).
3. Climate & sustainability a top leadership platform.
The business community has fully embraced its leadership role on environmental issues – the culmination of a 20+ year transformation from villain to hero. Nearly 200 companies from our list had something to say about climate change already in 2019. Moreover, twelve distinct environmental issues garnered engagement from at least 50 businesses. On the flip side, stakeholder pressure against many industries may be softening as they commit to emissions reduction targets, energy efficiency, and pursuit of a circular economy through waste management.
4. Innovation is a double-edged sword.
It’s no surprise that companies are eager to talk about innovation. What’s fascinating is how many of these issues represent a double-edged sword for corporate reputation:
AI holds great promise, but stakeholders worry it will exacerbate bias
Big data can revolutionize decision-making, but data security is a top vulnerability
Robots & automation promise greater efficiency but also drive anxiety about labor displacement.
How companies navigate the opportunities and the risks of touting innovation is something we’ll watch closely.
5. Where companies AREN’T leading.
We looked at issues where stakeholders are applying the most pressure, but companies are saying the least. The following issues stand out:
Living Wage. This is the #1 issue by stakeholder pressure, but companies are saying relatively little on the topic.
Sexual Harassment. This is the 2nd largest issue by stakeholder pressure. Many companies have taken important steps to tighten internal practices and safeguards, but few are treating it as a topic for visible leadership.
Pricing practices. Drug pricing accounts for most of the current energy from stakeholders, with hidden fees, gouging and dynamic pricing also in the mix. Stakeholders are talking about these issues far more than companies are.
Privacy and data security. Companies are communicating more on these topics in 2019, but fewer are treating it as an area of leadership.
Antitrust. The public conversation about market concentration is rising – particularly on the campaign trail – but the issue is being framed by activists, not companies.
The question for corporate leaders today: do any of these issues represent an opportunity for your company to differentiate itself with a bold or provocative stand?
HLG Analytics is a unit of High Lantern Group that analyzes and forecasts issue trends and develops actionable strategies to manage them.
If you’re interested in further analysis on any of these issues or would like to learn more about our analytics practice generally, reply to this email–or visit our analytics page at hlganalytics.com. You can also visit us at our main page, highlanterngroup.com.