CEO activism on the rise says Andy Polansky, CEO, Weber Shandwick

One of the biggest communications challenges for the CEO today is an expectation from their stakeholders that the top C-suite leader will express an opinion and action on current issues. These issues, may or may not be, related to their current business challenges.

As a reaction to this expectation, CEO activism is on the rise. According to Andy Polansky, who is on a visit to India this week, this rise in CEO activism globally is happening where CEOs  are filling a vacuum by taking a position on issues that government institutions are supposed to challenge.

Venkat Ananth, author with ‘The Ken’,, said this has been seen in issues like immigration in the US and the dreamer campaign which was taken up by Planned Parenthood. For the dreamer campaign , where dreamers refer to illegal immigrants who grew up in the US, Planned Parenthood conducted a phone campaign to help support action for these ‘dreamers’ to stay on.

Andy Polansky, CEO, Weber Shandwick, at a media interaction in Gurgaon

According to Polansky, this is just the start of CEO activism and that employees expect their leadership to take a stand. Polansky added that, “CEOs have a responsibility to take a stand. Of course, this is in relation to their business objectives.”

Polansky was speaking during a breakfast interaction, today, with a group of journalists from television and digital media in Gurgaon.

While the perception is that, in India, the CEO community is largely silent on taking a stand on mainstream issues outside their business imperative, Nikhil Pahwa, founder, MedianAma, said that this attitude is changing in India as well. Pahwa added that where the issue has been linked to long term values, such as in the case of the current campaign, ‘Speak for Me’ against the linking of Aadhar cards with personal and financial data such as bank accounts and mobile numbers, executives are more liable to express an opinion and take action.

Karan Bhandari, Weber Shandwick, also pointed out that the start-up culture led to an ecosystem where pride and joy in where you work has become an important factor for employees. And the expression of this feeling is an expectation that their employer will resonate with and express their values.

If you enjoyed this article, you can subscribe for free to our weekly event and subscriber alerts.