CEOs are silent on the guns. They need to speak in a ‘loud chorus,’ says Yale’s Jeff Sonnenfeld


New York
CNN Business

Corporate America said very little after a Texas school shooting this week that left 21 people dead. Yale professor Jeff Sonnenfeld shouts at their silence.

Sonnenfeld, a staunch advocate of corporate social responsibility, applauded Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon for speaking out, but said more was needed.

“That voice is a start but still not the strong chorus of CEOs and other leaders needed,” the Yale professor told CNN in an email Friday.

Sonnenfeld, whose list of companies cutting ties with Russia has pressured other brands to do the same, noted that many executives were hesitant to make statements after Tuesday’s shooting at Robb Elementary. School in Uvalde, Texas.

“As before, where are the united clergy, union leaders, pension funds, institutional investors, professional associations and campuses (who spoke so well after Parkland)? Sonnenfeld said, referring to the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Neither the U.S. Chamber of Commerce nor the Business Roundtable, the two major trade groups, have issued statements since Tuesday’s shooting.

American companies have faced growing pressure from their employees and shareholders to act in a socially responsible manner. Many companies have recently taken a stand on burning issues, including abortion rights, unconscious bias in the workplace, gender equality, LGBT+ issues, voting rights and preserving democracy.

The 2019 Business Roundtable said corporations are no longer solely beholden to shareholders and that corporations have a responsibility to improve society by serving all stakeholders – including customers and employees – ethically, morally and fair.

Yet recently, some Republican politicians have taken action against companies that have spoken out against controversial new laws.

In April 2021, Georgia’s Republican-controlled House voted to revoke a major tax break for Delta Air Lines (DAL) as punishment for its CEO’s public criticism of the law. controversial state law that restricts access to the ballot. Lawmakers ultimately let Delta retain its tax relief. But Georgia Republicans rescinded a similar tax break in 2018 after Delta severed ties with the National Rifle Association.

This year, Florida removed a tax break for Disney after CEO Bob Chapek, under pressure from employees, denounced the state’s so-called Don’t Say Gay law.

It’s unclear whether corporate inaction in the face of the latest mass shooting is the result of complacency, fear, or some other reason. But Sonnenfeld says the silence is deafening.

– David Goldman of CNN Business contributed to this report

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