Not that long ago, corporate executives had a single thing to worry about: profit. It was the raison d’etre, and it largely determined a company’s stock price, its ability to pay out dividends, and its longevity as a going concern. The public lionized old-school business leaders such as General Electric Co.’s Jack Welch not because of their winning personalities or social media savvy, but because they could reliably deliver growing profits year after year.
No longer. For today’s chief executive officers, the traditional financial metrics such as earnings and return on investment are being eclipsed in the boardroom and society by the demand to satisfy constituencies or take a stand on issues like abortion, global warming, and racial and gender equity. There’s long been that pressure from Democrats and liberals. But as the Republican Party has evolved from a body focused on tax cuts and less regulation into one driven by identity politics and White grievance, the pressure on businesses to pick sides will only grow.