United in their belief that a strong economy requires a strong democracy, a coalition of business leaders and organizations recently announced the Business & Democracy Initiative (B&DI), a partnership with the goal to protect election integrity in the United States and rebuild trust in democratic institutions.
“Business leaders across the country are concerned about the health of our democracy. They understand that our economic dynamism depends on a capable and accountable government,” Daniella Ballou-Aares, CEO of the Leadership Now Project, said in a public statement. “The Business & Democracy Initiative will provide business leaders with the knowledge and platform to lead on the issues—from preventing election crises to expanding civic engagement—and secure a strong economy for the next generation.”
Polling by Morning Consult on behalf of the B&DI indicates the business community wants to be active in protecting democracy in the U.S. and that consumers will support them. The overwhelming majority of business leaders (96 percent) say the existence of a well-functioning democracy is important to a strong economy. Eighty percent of business leaders think businesses should act to protect democracy and to ensure safe and fair elections.
Just over half of business leaders (51 percent) say their businesses are more likely than they were five years ago to encourage employees to take a stance or speak out in support of democracy, or to take a public stance as a business. Sixty-four percent of consumers say that businesses with a public commitment to democracy shows those businesses care about their customers, employees, and has the “right values.”
The business community is well positioned with the public to defend democracy and election integrity, said Ballou-Aares, because businesses are trusted more than government and media. Edelman’s Trust Barometer for 2022 reveals the global level of trust in government and media dropped during the past year, she said, whereas businesses are the most trusted institutions (61 percent), for a second consecutive year.
Respondents to the Edelman survey believe the corporate community can and should do more to address societal issues, said Ballou-Aares. Business leaders, she said, need clear guidance on how to address complex, often controversial, issues to ensure they are aligned with their corporate values and are acting in their stakeholders’ best interests.
Businesses and business leaders are accountable to their customers and their employees to represent principles, not political parties, Ballou-Aares told 3p. Those principles, she said, must align with the “most basic values in our country—the rule of law and a participatory democracy,” and the B&DI coalition stands firmly behind those principles.
The coalition encourages business leaders to use their platforms to make public statements supportive of U.S. election integrity by providing employees, customers and other stakeholders with the facts and figures to mitigate misinformation, she said.
Citing research by Freedom House, Ballou-Aares noted that 45 of the top 50 global companies operate in a democracy.
“China may have a strong economy, but at what price? There are multiple contemporary examples of populist and authoritarian governments undermining business in countries like Brazil, Hungary, Turkey and China,” said Ballou-Aares. “In the U.S., corporations are increasingly threatened with targeted, punitive regulations when they publicly disagree with political leaders in states like Florida, Georgia and Texas.”
The business community needs to stand together against such retaliatory measures, she said, because “now is not the time to remain silent.”
Ballou-Aares told 3p the Business & Democracy Initiative will not endorse any candidates for office and instead will focus on mobilizing business leaders “committed to protecting elections and rebuilding trust in democratic institutions.”
“We seek to engage stakeholders across all levels of business to advocate for reforms that address the threat to our democracy,” said Ballou-Aares. “As the health and stability of American democracy continue to be under serious threat, the business community is a critical voice in the fight to preserve our free, open and democratic system.”
Image credit: Leon Kaye