BostInno, Tech, 11/22/16

Stop us if this sounds familiar: in the days since the election, you and your colleagues have been sitting around wondering what this all means for you, your business, and the country. Some, maybe many, of the things that were said during the campaign disturb you, and you’re concerned that this new administration won’t reflect your values. Some in your workforce may have expressed distress. You’re concerned that we may move in policy directions that stifle innovation, or worse, that may cause bright minds in your organization or potential recruits from our educational institutions to innovate elsewhere. You’re wondering where you fit in and what, if anything, you should do.

This is a no-brainer. Do something. Speak out. Use your platform as a business leader to make the case for moving this country forward, not backward.

We suspect you may have some questions about how and why to get involved. Allow us to present what we hope will be some helpful FAQs:

Q: Wouldn’t I be out of place as a business leader, getting involved in politics and policy?

A: Not at all! In fact, the business community in Massachusetts has a history of driving policy changes, and coming together to make a national impact by innovating at home. In 1993 business leaders joined with political and education leaders and created the Commonwealth’s nation-leading education reform bill. In 2006 the business community was at the table bringing our first-in-the-country health care reform law to fruition. Just last year business groups from across the political spectrum united to rally around equal pay legislation, giving Massachusetts America’s toughest pay equity law. And organizations from J.P. Licks to Wayfair, MassChallenge to John Hancock, pushed to help pass 2016’s landmark transgender accommodations bill in the State House.

Q: Will taking a stand on issues like climate change, diversity, minimum wage, or paid leave be bad for my business?

A: The opposite! Markets are clamoring for socially responsible businesses. Consumers want to support businesses that they can respect for their positive stance and impact on society and the environment, as well as on the economy. This past summer the Brookings Institute published a report that stated: “We are in the early stages of a global culture shift that is transforming our vision of the purpose of business from a late 20th century view that it is to maximize value for shareholders to a 21st century view that the purpose of business is to maximize value for society …. People are taking action to harness the power of business to solve society’s greatest challenges. Business—what we create, where we work, where we shop, what we buy, who we invest in—has become a source of identity and purpose.”

Q: How do I even start?

A: We’re guessing you have a Twitter account. Use it to advocate for things you care about, but don’t stop there. Call, email or tweet your elected officials–even set up meetings with them. When business leaders talk, political and thought leaders listen. Find an organization that reflects your values and get involved. They can help plug you in with influencers and brief you on issues so that you feel informed as an advocate. Groups like the Climate Action Business Association, the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education and the Alliance for Business Leadership specialize in engaging business leaders in policy work. Call them.

Q: Why in the world would I wade into these waters at a time when politics is so divisive and nasty?

A: And now for some inspirational quotes! Albert Einstein: “The world is a disastrous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”

Conversations about what the coming political changes mean for us are happening in workplaces around Massachusetts, from the water cooler to the corner office, in startups and in companies whose earliest ledgers were kept with a quill pen. Now is the time to take those discussions outside of your office and off of Gchat. Use your voice and your platform to fight for progress. Arundhati Roy said that “to stay quiet is as political an act as speaking out.” You get the idea. Don’t sit this out.

– Beverly Armstrong and Jesse Mermell