Upholding Democracy: Brands Must Define Their Purpose as Government Allies in 2021


Many agencies and practitioners already have attempted to predict what corporate responsibility and purpose look like for brands in 2021, but the time for pontification is over.

Now, we must be unapologetic in our expectation for companies to step in when governments fall short. This tenant of corporate responsibility was brought to the forefront with Twitter and Facebook announcing they’d banned former president Trump–permanently and indefinitely, respectively–from their platforms. This unexpected move (albeit possibly overdue) may change the relationship brands have with consumers and the role they should play in protecting people, communities and the environment.

Our society is grappling with the urgent need to dismantle systemic racism, a former president who incited violence and refuses to concede his election loss, and a rising and preventable COVID-19 death toll.

In such times, brands can, and must, serve as champions and allies as the new administration fights to rebuild trust in government, fight the pandemic and advance critical climate protections.

As today’s lead story reports, many large companies suspended donations to elected officials who opposed certifying the election results. This signals the urgency, but not the end, of corporate response to this domestic crisis.

Companies need to reevaluate brand purpose and ask tough questions about their role in society. For example, when collective bargaining is prohibited locally, how will brands advocate for workers? When overtime restrictions are lax, will companies insist on a standard for manufacturers–or rely on government? When misinformation spreads online, how will companies protect users?


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