Is it Smart for a Business to Take a Public Stance on Politics?

In the first week of Donald Trump’s presidency he has signed a whopping 17 presidential executive orders, many of which have been met with extreme backlash from the left and high praise from the right. The controversial orders have affected business in a new and interesting way. The CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick and the CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk have both joined Trump’s economic advisory board which prompted swift outrage on social media with many people sharing screenshots of them deleting their Uber accounts (which can not be recovered). Uber also seemingly attempted to counteract a 1 hour taxi strike to protest the immigration ban at New York’s JFK airport this Friday by turning off surge pricing, a move that did not sit well with New York City taxi drivers or fellow protesters. An Uber spokeswoman later came out and claimed that Uber did not mean to profit from the strike. Kalanick later issued a statement saying that while he disagreed with the immigration ban, he still saw the importance of working with the new president. Musk (who was vehemently anti-Trump during the general election and believes that global warming is an existential threat to our world) took a less public approach to being appointed to the council. Still, stock in Tesla is down and #DeleteUber has been trending throughout the weekend.

          In a counter move, rideshare app Lyft took a different stance. The app offered to donated $1 million dollars to the ACLU throughout the course of the next 4 years. But rideshare apps aren’t the only businesses making a statement, Starbucks has also offered to hire 10,000 refugees in response to the immigration ban, which has led to #BoycottStarbucks to trend on Twitter within the members of the right wing, who claim that giving jobs to refugees is taking potential jobs from American citizens. Starbucks however, is no stranger to backlash for their politics; they were also met with resistance from many when they changed their Christmas themed cups to a more inclusive plain red holiday cup.

        Other apps have also chimed in; AirBnB is offering free housing to refugees who are caught in limbo and DoorDash offered to provide free food to all legal council at airports over the weekend, while competing food delivery app, Postmates issued a statement on their website and offered to match employee donations to the ACLU and the International Refugee Assistance Project. The CEO and co-founder of Google (and refugee) Sergey Brin was even found in person at a protest at SFO airport.

        So the question remains, is it smart to take a public stance on politics and risk alienating some of your customer base? Some say that they enjoy when a business is transparent, this way they can choose whether or not to support that business; others are more on team “ignorance is bliss” and would rather order their latte without having it feel like an inherently political choice. What do you think? Leave your responses in the comments.