Companies' political leanings influence engagement with activists | 7/13/2016 | Staff
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Liberal-leaning companies are more likely to work in concert with the demands of activists of all kinds than conservative-leaning companies, according to researchers at Penn State and the University of Washington. The findings suggest that not all companies make concessions to activists as a result of threats but may instead have a workforce that is more amenable to activists' requests.

"We usually think of businesses as being focused solely on making a profit and being neutral or detached from political beliefs," said Forrest Briscoe, professor of management and organization. "Our research suggests that organizations' openness to social activism is related to their employees' political ideologies and not necessarily a response to threats."

Researchers - Leanings - Fortune - Companies - Data

The researchers identified the political leanings of the Fortune 500 companies using publicly available data on employees' political campaign donations. They documented the companies' responses to activism both through interviews with some of their corporate social responsibility officers and through the collection of data on protest events from articles published in U.S. newspapers. The results appeared online on May 28 in Administrative Science Quarterly.

The team found that organizational liberalism is a significant predictor of a firm's likelihood of yielding to activists' requests.

Liberalism - Belief - Interconnectedness - Humans - Belief

"Liberalism tends to be characterized by a belief in the interconnectedness of humans whereas a more conservative belief is that there is more independence of individuals," said Briscoe. "Our research supports this idea because it shows that liberal organizations tend to be more open to engaging with civil society."

The team also found that the more geographically concentrated a company's employees are, the more their values matter to the companies' responses to activists.

Companies - Employees

"Some companies' employees are all...
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