Wellisch ’26: Consumers must pressure companies to intervene on policy issues

0

Turning on CNN and then visiting Fox News might be the best way to see just how polarized American politics have become. News anchors report on the same national issues, but their presentation of these events is often diametrically opposed. Polarization has hijacked our politics, making legislative response to contemporary issues slow, ineffective, and difficult. Leveraging the resources of American companies may be the key to solving our country’s most pressing social problems. Influential leaders of private industry can participate in the political discourse of our country without the arbitrary divides that plague American politics. And our generation must mobilize them to act.

We can already see what corporate engagement in politics might look like. Companies pulling out of Russia after the country invaded Ukraine, publicly distancing themselves from the Trump presidency, or helping employees access reproductive health care after Roe v. Wade are all signs of how politics can influence companies to act. Yet as consumers we can demand even more, and with our buying “vote” we should expect to see the impact.

Even on polarized issues, companies have shown the ability to take meaningful action. Amid growing popular pressure to control gun sales, the International Organization for Standardization, a body that oversees standards in transactions, has approved a merchant code proposed by the merged bank to give credit cards the power to report suspicious large gun sales. All credit card purchases are grouped under a merchant code by industry; different types of vendors have their own unique codes. Prior to the new ISO rule, gun shops were categorized as “general merchandise”. However, they now have their own distinctive code, giving credit card companies the power to flag any unusually large gun purchases. Gun control supporters have celebrated the adoption of the new code by major credit card companies, saying it marks a step in the right direction.

Some might criticize these credit card companies for adopting a code that favors one side of political debate, but this political assertion is undeniably powerful. This should inspire key players in other industries to break down barriers and step into the political arena themselves. Historically, gaining bipartisan support for gun control legislation has been difficult, and as we wait for unity on our nation’s need for gun regulation, corporations can fill that void. When political infighting exacerbates humanitarian problems, we cannot afford to let corporate America off the hook.

As corporate awareness increases, some leaders are even beginning to hold themselves accountable. Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and his family recently transferred full ownership of the $3 billion company so that its profits support the fight against climate change. Patagonia is now owned by Holdfast Collective, a non-profit organization that will ensure that Patagonia revenue is used exclusively to advance green initiatives and maintain undeveloped areas around the world. Unlike many successful entrepreneurs who have taken their business public and kept the profits for themselves, Chouinard and his family will have to pay $17.5 million in taxes just for their donation to the trust. His inspiring executive decision shows how, in the hands of conscious and socially responsible leaders, capitalism can be a powerful tool to confront the problems of our world.

As informed consumers, we have the power to mobilize this type of conscious change. Living in a capitalist economy means that consumers are important decision makers in the success of business. For example, as America continues to become more racially and ethnically diverse, a changing consumer base demands inclusive advertising methods. Companies must appeal to American consumers who value inclusiveness to remain viable. They have changed because consumer America has changed. Manufacturers must listen to their consumers because our approval and support are necessary for their success. Therefore, leveraging our consumer power is key to mobilizing leaders to action.

Chouinard and the new credit card code both reveal the power American corporations can have in confronting our country’s social injustices. Companies can keep coming out and saying they’re ‘supporting the issues’ or ‘will commit to change’, but in our troubled world, these vague statements won’t make up for a government‘s faults. ineffective. It is up to us to exert monetary pressure if we want change.

Our generation represents a new wave of unwavering surveillance of political and corporate leaders. Businesses are feeling the pressure, which is why some are already stepping into the political sphere. As long as we stay true to our values ​​and use our wallets as political instruments, perhaps we can recruit American companies as trusted partners.

Yael Wellisch ’26 can be contacted at yael_wellisch@brown.edu. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and other editorials to opinions@browndailyherald.com.

Share.

Comments are closed.