Politics and business: where’s the line?

I read the blog “Politics, PR and Promotion: When is it good for business?” by Naked PR . This article talked about how businesses are intertwining politics and whether or not that is a good or bad thing. I believe politics and businesses should be handled in a similar way that the separation between church and state is handled. I don’t think politics should be present in businesses, unless they are a business that deals directly with politics. However, I do think there needs to be a line. Although most people disagree with me on this opinion, I believe that one’s professional life should not be affected if they decide to be politically active. For example, if I were to go on a protest against Bush, I think that should be allowed and not looked down upon by fellow co-workers or businessmen. However, if I were to take my company and declare it being either democrat or conservative, I feel like that is wrong. I think on a personal level, people should be able to voice their opinion, but on a company level politics should be kept out of business. The blog I read listed two cases where politics in business became an issue. The first case was Ben and Jerry’s and how they re-named two of their ice cream flavors, one after President Obama’s election win and another they only re-named in the state of Vermont in honor of gay marriage becoming legal. I think although it’s evident that these are both liberal accomplishments, they are part of history now. Had it been before the decisions were made, there could have been a hidden agenda and that could be interpreted as them trying to press their beliefs on their customers. Because they waited until after it could be treated as a part of US history, I think that is ok. The second case they talked about was how the CEO of Whole Foods wrote an op ed piece in The Wall Street Journal, talking about his dislike of Obama’s healthcare plans. I think as long as he did not mention his affiliation with Whole Foods, this should not be looked down upon. I feel that people should be able to have a separate identity from their professional lives, and this is one example of how. Clearly, though, several people disagree with me as evidenced by the boycotters and protesters of Whole Foods. I know the field of journalism usually frowns upon making your political views known, but I think as long as your reporting is unbiased, you should be free to practice political advocacy if you so choose.

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8 Responses to Politics and business: where’s the line?

  1. admin says:

    Great post topic, Miranda. Just a couple of notes:

    – for ease of reading online, it’s best to break up text into smaller paragraphs;

    – also remember that one of the stated goals is to get the audience involved. How about asking a question, or encouraging feedback in some other way?

    I’m not grading this first round of posts, but since they are still public, I recommend that you follow the above suggestions. This will also give you practice for future posts.

  2. bgansar says:

    Politics is a hard enough topic alone, but when you mix it with your business-it’s risky business. I agree that when the CEO of Whole Foods stated his opinion it is fine as long as he doesn’t state it “from the CEO of Whole Foods,” but still, people are entitled to their opinion. I guess the question is when is enough, enough? Ben and Jerry’s is known to be pretty liberal, and it’s not really surprising that they would do what they did and if they are willing to lose customers (which I doubt they would lose that many) then that is their loss that they can obviously afford. Someone must have thought through the ramifications of naming these ice creams ahead of time. Keep politics out of business as much as possible I say, and if you are in a position which doesn’t allow you to express this then just be grateful, because it is probably a good position.

    • mkuhl says:

      I agree, business does need to stay out of politics. There is always that gray area where it comes down to what is ethically ok as a businessman (or woman) versus what is ethically ok as a person who wishes to express their opinion. I’ve never understood why newspapers endorse political candidates when they are supposed to be the unbiased business that is presenting news and not their opinions, but that is a whole other issue entirely I suppose.

  3. ecain says:

    While mixing politics and business is probably not a good idea, there is still a possibility that it might happen. You talked about the separation of church and state, however the gay marriage issue often times seems to blend the line of separation, just as there are some topics that will blend the line between business and politics. I am not sure if I believe that declaring a company to be democratic or republican is wrong, but it certainly would not be good for business. For example, while the CEO of Whole Foods was simply stating his opinion on Obama’s health-care plan, that could have serious repercussions on his company as many of his shoppers might approve of it. As a PR professional I would agree that businesses should not publicly declare where they stand on political issues, however if they do then it is at their own risk.

    • mkuhl says:

      If a company chooses to declare themselves one way or the other, that is up to them, and like you said, it is at their own risk. When you do that, you are putting your customers in a strange position. While the half that agrees with your political party might be excited and ok about it, the other half is left out and feeling disoriented. I think leaving roughly 50% of your customers feeling opposed or even slightly weird about a company is never a smart business decision.

  4. kinoshita says:

    I agree that business and politics should be separate as well. It’s inevitable, however, that the mixing of politics and business will continue to be an ethical issue plaguing politicians, business owners and PR practitioners alike. The question that comes to mind is how do you draw the line between okay and not okay?

    Ben and Jerry for instance didn’t need to incorporate politics into its product. They chose to make politics a part of their business. I’m not saying it was right or wrong but merely that it was more direct than John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods. The company directly involved the company in politics.

    Mackey, on the other hand, was giving his personal opinion in an op ed piece on a very sensitive and high traffic subject, published in a distinguished publication with major circulation. On his Whole Food’s blog Mackey said that he was merely responding to the President’s invite for feedback with “constructive ideas for reforming our health care system.” According to him the article title had been altered. From my understanding it was his own views and he was not speaking on behalf of Whole Foods. Yet, the reason his piece was so interesting was because he was the CEO of a liberal-leaning company. How do you differentiate between John Mackey, the man, and John Mackey, the CEO?

    • mkuhl says:

      The question you asked is the exact same question I struggle with in the field of journalism. We are being taught (or at lease I have in my classes) that journalists are to remain unbiased no matter what, even in their personal lives. I really like politics and am involved with animal rights and human rights, so as an activist, I strongly dislike how that is deemed “unprofessional,” even if it does not interfere with my work and I keep the two separate. Just like in John Mackey’s case, can he be John Mackey, the man with an opinion about healthcare or can he only be John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods?

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