A CEO Speaks Out

Which begs the question: why are US business leaders so silent?

Photo by Marcos Luiz Photograph on Unsplash

Something noteworthy happened overnight.

A CEO has spoken out against the “narcissist in Washington” whose “irresponsible, dangerous, ill-conceived” decision to kill Iranian military commander Qassim Soleimani resulted in the “collateral damage” of 176 dead—including 63 Canadians—when Iran accidentally shot down Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752:

The fact that it was a Canadian CEO, Michael McCain of Maple Leaf Foods, doing the speaking up was also noteworthy.

As I tweeted this morning:

Where are the US CEOs standing up to Trump's insanity and incompetence? Where are the US CEOs denouncing Trump's racism, antisemitism, misogyny, bigotry, stochastic terrorism and environmental destruction?

As The New York Times just noted:

McCain’s statements… were a rare show of political anger from the corporate world, where executives tend to stay out of the fray. 

But even though McCain is tweeting from Canada, it’s also worth noting that Maple Leaf Foods in heavily invested in the US market. His company employs 12,500 people, and as its Twitter profile notes, “we proudly do business in Canada, US & Asia.”

I understand why, especially in this age of instant backlash and consumer boycotts, CEOs may wish to stay out of the political fray. But when Trump’s recklessness is putting lives at risk—and the whole world on edge—how does it make sense to stay silent?

Today’s CEOs, whether they lead national or multinational companies, recognize that their success is driven by a variety of stakeholders, from customers to employees to investors to suppliers to business partners. Almost universally, these CEOs embrace the values their stakeholders demand, such as: diversityequalitysustainability… and transparency. These are the very values that Trump and his Administration are attacking every day.

This is not a normal year. It’s not a time for silence. For the sake of their stakeholders—and for the long-term good of their businesses—it’s a time for more CEOs to speak out for truth, sanity and accountability.

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