A Different Type of Corporate Virtue Signaling

Aug 28, 2019

In the latest Business Roundtable meeting, nearly 200 CEOs, including the head honchos from Apple, JPMorgan, Chase and Walmart, signed a document that pledged to shift corporate governance away from shareholder value.

Yep, they decided that being virtuous would be more important (to them) than the long-accepted dictum that the goal of a company is to make money for its owners. Granted, the document they signed was described as “high level and low on specifics” it is most assuredly indicative of the current social and business environment.

Not presuming to think along the high-minded ridges of such industry leaders, I’ve never known a company to suddenly decide business-as-usual was no longer acceptable. Honestly, this kind of talk seldom passes my personal “smell test”. It’s my experience that when someone who makes millions of dollars annually starts telling me what’s best for the rest of us, I start sniffing. Especially when I start hearing a mix of solid thinking interspersed with comments about “what type of society is possible.”

No quibble the fixation over shareholder value can be a big problem. Especially when a company’s leaders start thinking in quarters and not decades. They run the risk of making some very shaky decisions, designed solely to keep Wall Street analysts happy.

And there’s no doubt there’s got to be a better way to run a business than to hang every marketing decision on metrics.

Today, brands no longer have all the power. Consumers are better informed and no longer satisfied at being told something is “preferred over all similar products by consumers who have a hangnail on their index finger and find the second finger trigger more comfortable.”

That’s the same late 1950s technique that had kids like me saving up their money to buy a Wham-O Superball because it was “made from the same material as the Strategic Air Command’s B-52 bomber tires.”

It really was, but it was rubber. Don Draper made an entertaining character on Mad Men, but Madison Avenue advertising geniuses were essentially high-order con men. They specialized in misdirection and half-truth.

Today, the model’s different- and while it’s infuriating to anyone who believes owning a camera, microphone and an internet connection isn’t sufficient for experience, knowledge or understanding, many companies products are being sold by influencers. Fortunately, in the outdoor industry, a lack of product knowledge or experience becomes obvious pretty quickly.

It’s difficult to convince someone you’re an experienced shooter if you flinch and squeal when your “big bore .22 LR slams into your shoulder.”

But gigantic companies are busily signaling to the outside world that while they’re not exactly flipping off their ultimate owners (shareholders), they’re willing to give them some discomfort to help “steer” society in the direction they feel it should be moving.

It’s one of those disconcerting things where you suddenly realize that much of the world isn’t being run by visionaries, it’s being managed by what are essentially overpaid bureaucrats.

Not everyone, fortunately, is cut from that same bland cloth. Yesterday, I was forwarded a release from Defenseshield, Inc., a “preeminent designer, manufacturer, and seller of armor systems to the US Military, Federal agencies, the nuclear industry, airports and courthouses.”

Their CEO, Collins White, irritated at the latest rounds of “virtue signaling” in corporate America, announced some “pro-constitutional measures for all Defenseshield employees:”

  1. Every day is "Bring a gun to work" day.
  2. 1-year membership in the NRA.
  3. Lifetime membership to Gun Owners of America.
  4. Free FFL firearms transfers.
  5. Pay for firearms training.
  6. Pay for any permits that allow you to own or carry a firearm.
  7. Pay entry fees to any firearms competition
  8. Pay entry fees to any gun show
  9. Match contributions to NRA, GOA, USA (Olympic) Shooting, 4H shooting, Scouting shooting programs.
  10. $100 annual match toward firearms range or club membership.
  11. $20 for every pair of jeans you buy that aren't Levi’s.

“The attack on the Constitution by elite left-wing billionaires cannot be tolerated,” White said, “I left New York when the so-called safe act made many of my guns, accessories and magazines illegal. I've relocated to Florida where the environment for business and the freedoms granted by the constitution is not under such a rabid assault. I invite all corporate leaders to stand with me in upholding the constitution, and to invest in the future of America."

I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking this Collins White might be an influencer of the first order. Especially since his contact information (220559@email4pr.com) is the contact listed on the press release.

He’s not just supporting the decision, he’s owning it.

We’ll keep you posted.

—Jim Shepherd