Some of the most powerful CEOs in the country quit President Trump’s business advisory councils this week in the wake of the president’s equivocal comments on the violence in Charlottesville, Va.
They included the top leaders of PepsiCo, General Motors and IBM. A couple of CEOs resigned prior to this week after the president came out against the Paris Climate Accord and following an executive order limiting immigration from the Middle East.
To save face, when Trump learned of the defections he moved to disband the two elite business councils, the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative and Strategy and Policy Forum, which were convened to advise the president on business issues and to build bridges with executives across industries.
The irony is rich. The message clear: Trump is bad for business.
The man who was going to bring some business savvy to the Oval Office is so toxic nine months into his term business executives don’t want to be associated with him.
Trump once declared that his economic plan will make him the “greatest president for jobs that God ever created.” The CEOs abandoned him because they feared losing business, which could have cost jobs.
Bidding adieu to Trump makes business sense. Not too long ago it was rare for a business to take a public stand on a social or political issue. Not anymore.
Corporations are more sensitive to public sentiment on the issues of the day. They understand consumers are more attuned to a company’s “social value proposition” and will boycott a company they feel is discriminatory or doesn’t represent their values.
Fearing consumer and employee backlash if they don’t engage, businesses are no longer staying neutral. They are taking stands.
That’s why Tiki Brand products, the company that makes torches identical to those carried by the white supremacists in Charlottesville, quickly denounced their use in the protests.
The public outrage over Trump’s response to Charlottesville left the CEOs few options other than condemnation and disassociation. Anything short of that risked their businesses’ reputation and revenues.
Trump is bad for business. The question that follows is how then can he be good for America?