Like in previous years, chief executives will undoubtedly get involved in politics in 2019. After all, Chip Bergh of Levi’s and Rose Marcario of Patagonia is only two examples of today’s activist CEOs. The public practically demands that businesses take a position: Nearly 50% of Americans feel that CEOs may influence legislation through their activism, according to a recent study by the PR firm Weber Shandwick, and 77% agree that CEOs should speak up when their company’s values are in danger. About 46% of respondents indicated they would be more likely to make a purchase from a business whose CEO speaks out on social issues that are important to them.
For some company founders and executives, corporate social responsibility is ingrained in their business strategy. We polled CEOs and founders across a range of industries to find out which social issues, whether or not they have an impact on their companies, they will be most interested in 2019.
“In my opinion, climate change is the most pressing issue of our day since it is the root cause of all other problems, such as political unrest and economic hardship. In the past three decades, there has been an exponential rise in the number of climate-related natural disasters, many of which have had severe effects on the economy and society. I partly developed goTenna because I needed a way to communicate in an emergency. Daniela Perdomo, the CEO of the mesh networking start-up goTenna
“At Material, we frequently reflect on responsible consumerism and how it relates to sustainability. We can lessen the quantity of trash that is out there if we can make things that you will reach for every day and that doesn’t need to be replaced all the time. We are also advocating for less surplus in our packaging and will keep doing so. Even though consumers adore the box-within-a-box experience, there is a lot of waste produced, so we want to keep coming up with new, sustainable ways to give the finest experience. —Eunice Byun, the CEO of the new cookware company Material
“We firmly believe that the cannabis sector serves as a social change agent in a variety of contexts. It is one of the last remaining largely unexplored agricultural crops, and due to prohibition, we have a wonderful ecology of small, diverse farms that can meet the need for cannabis in our nation. Since cannabis is the subsidy that keeps the farms afloat, many of the farmers we work with also grow fruits and vegetables. In addition to distributing the cannabis produced by these independent farmers throughout the entire state of California, Flow Kana has started to buy the fruits and vegetables produced on these farms in order to offer our more than 215 employees CSA [community-supported agriculture] boxes on a monthly basis as a benefit. Due to this, Flow Kana is the biggest consumer of locally-grown produce in Mendocino County. The cannabis sector has the chance to take the lead in a much wider decentralised agriculture revolution that is just getting started. Michael Steinmetz, the CEO of the marijuana firm Flow Kana
“I’ll be becoming a mother in 2019, and keeping my child safe will be one of my main responsibilities. I want gun violence to be absent from my future daughter’s life. School shooting drills shouldn’t be commonplace, and kids should feel safe visiting a playground or a movie theatre. The next year, I want to speak out to put an end to the needless tragedies that automatic firearms all too routinely cause. ― Ariel Kaye, CEO of the new bed company Parachute
EQUAL ACCESS TO MEDICAL SERVICES
“One of the largest societal problems of our time is the startling rate of maternal mortality among black women, who are doing something so natural and significant as giving birth. The risk of pregnancy-related mortality is three to four times higher for black women than for white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Given that 50% of black women’s pregnancy-related fatalities are preventable, we must revamp our healthcare system to solve this national catastrophe. To overcome the implicit bias in maternal health that exists, change is required for Black women to live full and dignified lives. —Tristan Walker, CEO of Walker & Company, a health and beauty startup
Social mobility is taken into consideration when designing the Sweeten platform for our general contractors. Uber drivers don’t have a clear path to management within the company, but we are seeing examples of small general contractor firms using their Sweeten business volume to expand their businesses. —Jean Brownhill, the CEO of the remodelling company Sweeten
“We take great satisfaction in the diversity of our teams, which includes having individuals from a variety of ethnic origins as well as those who were born in various nations. We have Dreamers as well as immigrants with visas. How to help our employees and incoming recruits who want to perform absolutely exceptional work but find themselves in the firing line due to visa concerns in this country will be a personal and corporate goal in 2019. — Jessica O. Matthews, CEO of Uncharted Power, a provider of energy
“The proportionate presence of Black and Latinx people in technology is usually the social problem I pay the most attention to, not just because of Code2040’s work but also because of how much we are all starting to realise the power that is being exercised in the sector. I’m interested to see whether anyone can connect the dots about the risks of technology’s influence in the absence of a diverse workforce. —Karla Monterroso, CEO of the Code2040 diversity organisation
“How to assist young women professionally is something I’m particularly attuned to because of my background working in female-driven entrepreneurial contexts, and now in my own experience as a female entrepreneur. Being a new mother and the creator of a start-up, disruptive company makes me the embodiment of “having it all,” in some respects. But I’m able to do these things in large part thanks to my excellent support network, which includes my incredibly supportive husband, a fantastic nanny, and my colleagues in New York, who recognise the value I bring to the company as a mother. Given the help I’ve gotten throughout my career, it’s crucial for me to return the favour and promote an entrepreneurial ecosystem that gives women at all levels of authority. —Nidhi Kapur, the CEO of the furniture company Maiden Home
SEXUAL MISCONDUCT “I’m focused on assisting in the abolition of violence and harassment against women at work, one of the most pervasive types of maltreatment against women. A startling 235 million women are at risk of sexual harassment at work because more than one-third of the countries in the world have no legislation against it. CARE has been pressuring governments and employers to reach a deal with unions and adopt a robust International Labor Organization Convention (ILO) — the first of its kind — to put a stop to violence and harassment at work through our #ThisIsNotWorking campaign. We’ve collected approximately 100,000 signatures on a petition asking the ILO to draught the global convention since the campaign’s inception in March. The #MeToo movement has demonstrated its strength here in the United States, and I hope that 2019 will see further global mobilisation of women to stop sexual harassment and gender-based violence. — Michelle Nunn, the head of the nonprofit Care