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Leon Kaye headshot

These CEOs Gave Up Their Salaries As the Pandemic Causes More Job Losses

More CEOs are forgoing their salaries, a move that sends a message to citizens that everyone is in this fight against the worsening COVID-19 pandemic.
By Leon Kaye

In an op-ed on MarketWatch earlier this week, a pair of academics argued that business leaders need to do more in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. “If CEOs wish to be faithful to their newly stated commitment to social responsibility, then as the highest paid in our economy, they should give up their salaries and stock-based compensation for 2020,” wrote Jennifer W. Kuan and Stephen F. Diamond.

That money, instead, could pay workers and help support communities that are struggling against this worsening pandemic. Further, Kuan and Diamond want to see these pledges scale up as such a pact could help pay for services many executives are asking the U.S. government to provide, such as childcare, healthcare and paid sick leave. True, salary is often a sliver of these executives’ compensation after stocks and other benefits. Nevertheless, such promises send a message to workers, many of whom feel as if they were thrown under the bus at a time when they need a paycheck the most.

Considering the pay gap between top executives and frontline employees, which has widened exponentially over the past half-century, such a gesture would yield significant returns. First, it would speak to America’s culture of generosity, amplified even more at a time of need. Such a pact would also drive a sense of urgency that everyone is together in this fight as citizens hunker down during the pandemic. And it would send a signal that the Business Roundtable’s revised “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation” is not spin, but a true commitment to people and their communities. 

You’re probably aware of the airline and hotel CEOs who have cut back all or some of their salaries to bolster their companies against coronavirus shutdowns. Here is a sampling of some other business leaders forgoing salary for the time being:

Disney Chairman Bob Iger, who recently stepped down as CEO, announced he will stop accepting his salary for the foreseeable future.

CEO Ed Stack and President Lauren Hobart of Dick’s Sporting Goods said they are receiving no salary as of March 29.

W. Kent Taylor, CEO of Texas Roadhouse, decided to stop receiving pay until early 2021 to help employees affected by the economic downturn.

Tom Boyle, CEO of Columbia Sportswear, cut his salary from $3.3 million to $10,000.

And Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price, who five years ago made headlines by slashing his pay while guaranteeing a $70,000 salary for all company employees, cut his $70K annual paycheck to zero.

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Image credits: Edwin Hooper/Unsplash; Alec Favale/Unsplash

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

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