I shop at a company that is about to completely change the landscape of my neighborhood in Northern Virginia. With Amazon’s second headquarters slated to open this month (hello rent increase), I know that in addition to my purchasing power that impacts Amazon’s bottom line, I am also affected by their business decisions as a community member. Through the power of corporate advocacy, Amazon and other companies can hear from me, not just when I add to my cart, but also when their activities affect my family and my community.
So, what is corporate advocacy? Believe it or not, you already know! There are examples popping up all of the time, most notably recent decisions by retailers to change their policies around selling guns and ammunition. These actions, while likely strengthened through current events, are typically the result of sustained advocacy by nonprofits. Those nonprofits advocate regularly and are prepared when current events put their issue at the forefront of the national conversation.
There are a variety of ways you can engage in corporate advocacy. The most widely known form of corporate advocacy is the power of consumers to boycott a company. We see calls for boycotts every day on social media. However, it’s also possible to exercise influence by advocating to the shareholders. The Pride Foundation is doing awesome work ensuring an equitable workplace through shareholder advocacy, also known as active ownership.
So, what is shareholder advocacy? The foundation first becomes a shareholder in the corporation they want to change the internal policies of. Then, they use their position as shareholders to gain access to annual corporate meetings, or just gain visibility within the corporation, to advocate for policy change. To date, Pride Foundation has worked with nearly 30 companies, including many household names, to update their policies to be more inclusive of LGBTQ+ workers. This form of advocacy often takes the form of written requests for change, hosting roundtables with other shareholders or community representatives, or even a shareholder resolution. Pride Foundation’s process can be found on their website, but this may be a particularly useful strategy for institutions that already manage investment portfolios, like foundations or charitable endowments.
Another way to personally participate in corporate advocacy is to share feedback through customer feedback forms, direct messaging, social media, or public comments. For instance, I recently came across a news article that highlighted a fashion brand that was trying to capitalize on a series of tragedies. I had never heard of this brand before, but I took to the keyboard and was able to communicate via just a few clicks that I was strongly displeased with what the company was doing. Now, it’s too soon to see whether my efforts, combined with many other internet advocates, have had an effect, but you can believe I’ll be following up to see whether this company is changing their actions.
As an individual, if you feel strongly about anything that a company is doing, you can absolutely use your purchasing power to send a message. Just know that in order to strengthen your actions, the company needs to know why you are doing it. If you speak loudly enough, and are heard in the right places, the actions of a few are all it can take to get your message not just signed, sealed, and delivered, but also to elicit a response.
Nonprofits can do their part to encourage more individuals to engage in corporate advocacy, too. Our partners at Quorum released this helpful guide last year to help you get started or take your corporate advocacy to another level.
So get out there and exercise your new advocacy tool, and remember to check out the rest of your advocacy toolbox!