Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, right, watches as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with manufacturing executives at the White House in Washington.

Credit: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Corporate Responsibility In The Age Of Trump

August 22, 2017

Trump disbanded two business advisory councils last week after a slew of CEOs dropped out of the council in protest of the President’s contentious response to the deadly white nationalist and neo-nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both,” Trump tweeted Aug. 16 after disbanding the councils.

Kenneth Frazier, the African American CEO of the pharmaceutical company Merck, was one of the first members of the advisory council to resign.

"America's leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which runs counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal, " Frazier said in a statement posted to Merck's Twitter account on Aug. 14.

This is not the first time that Trump’s actions have caused CEOs to speak out against him. Back In June, both Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and Disney CEO Robert Iger resigned from White House advisory councils after Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement.

"Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world," Musk tweeted.

“You see CEOs stepping out on political and social issues,” Harvard Business School historian Nancy Koehn said on Boston Public Radio Tuesday.

Koehn discussed the wave of corporate responsibility many companies have exemplified in the wake of Trump’s presidency. “The Trump presidency and the controversial nature of so much of what he has done has certainly galvanized business leaders,” Koehn said.

While the backlash from big business against the president is nothing new, Koehn says that social media and the internet has forced CEOs to engage with their customers and employees.  

Kohen believes that these CEOs are speaking out against Trump for financial and personal reasons. Employees and customers are more invested in work and products that they can stand behind morally, says Kohen.

“Employees want to work for a company that aligns with their values," she said.

Click on the audio player above to listen to Harvard Business School historian Nancy Koehn's interview with Boston Public Radio


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