As you aspire to a better understanding of corporate political responsibility, you might have a few questions. We’ve compiled a list of resources that you can access below for some guidance through the process. Check back frequently as we will be continuing to update these lists. If you still have questions, or are seeking more resources on a specific topic, please contact us!
Resources that summarize the economic, societal and environmental cases for corporate political responsibility.
Why Corporate Political Responsibility?
- CSR Needs CPR: Corporate Sustainability and Politics (Tom Lyon et al, CMR, 2018): Suggests that a company’s political activities may have more impact on social and environmental sustainability than operations, and argues that corporate political responsibility requires transparency, accountability, and responsibility.
- Ready or not, the era of corporate political responsibility is upon us (Tom Lyon, The Hill, 2021) Argues that voting rights is just the beginning, and that we are entering a new era where companies will need to be more principled and considered about their political influence.
- Under a Microscope: A New Era of Scrutiny for Corporate Political Activity (The Conference Board, 2021): A robust overview of current legal landscape for corporate political activity. It highlights the reputational and other risks companies need to manage, and the need for oversight and transparency to govern political spending.
- Here’s What American’s Expect From Corporate America in the Wake of the Capitol Riots (Just Capital, 2021): Poll results that show a super-majority of Americans agree that CEOs have a role in upholding democracy, and believe corporate political spending should be disclosed.
Data and analysis of the scope and trends in corporate political activity.
Current Trends in Corporate Political Activity
- 2020 CPA-Zicklin Index of Corporate Political Disclosure and Accountability (Center for Political Accountability, Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research, Wharton): An authoritative overview of the types of corporate political spending and current scores for S&P 500 on disclosure, prohibition, and oversight.
- Money in Politics, One Month Later (Livni, Hirsch and Sorkin, New York Times, 2021): An analysis of spending halts taken by companies such as Morgan Stanley and Microsoft. The article ties these actions to analogous scenarios where memory and action were short-spanned, and provides the context behind dark money to hypothesize that this time could be no different.
- Corporate PAC money: Halting political donations isn’t enough (Timothy Werner, Fortune, 2021): Op-ed about how corporate commitment must go beyond political contribution, as broader political spending seriously outweighs contributions and true change cannot be made without bolder action.
- Recovery Squandered (HBS, 2019): While this report more broadly assesses America’s competitiveness, Chapter 3: The Role of Business in Politics Today and Tomorrow, identifies business’s fault for political gridlock, and volunteers solutions. (See pg 28-36)
- Conflicted Consequences (Center for Political Accountability, 2020) This report reveals the insidious nature of 527 organizations. It identifies the contradictions they create against bipartisan rhetoric while highlighting the means by which these organizations distance companies from their political spending.
- Dark Money, Illuminated (Issue One): Informative look at what dark money is, how it came to be, and the influence it has on shaping our society. Provides both a report and a first-of-its-kind database shining a light on transactions happening in the dark.
- Fmr Chief Justice Leo E. Strine’s Foreword to 2019 CPA-Zicklin Index of Corporate Political Disclosure and Accountability (Center for Political Accountability, Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research, Wharton, 2019): Foreword by former Chief Justice Leo E.Strine asks on what legitimate basis companies influence civic and political processes using shareholders’ (and often, workers’) capital. Argues that, in aggregate, political influence has increased uncertainty and hurt investment. (See pg 7-8)
Analyses of how CPR would impact key issues, along with issue-specific tools to help address the given challenges and opportunities.
- Advocate, Align, Allocate: How To Execute a Science-Based Climate Policy Agenda (Climate Policy Leadership): A framework for leaders looking to align their businesses with positive climate policy. Succinctly justifies taking a stance on climate change and provides actionable means to do so.
- Blueprint for Responsible Policy Engagement on Climate Change (CERES, 2020): Offers concrete recommendations on how companies can establish systems that address climate change as a systemic risk and integrate this understanding into their direct and indirect lobbying on climate policies.
- To Save the Climate, We have to Reimagine Capitalism (Rebecca Henderson, TED, 2020): In this bold talk, Henderson describes how unchecked capitalism destabilizes the environment and harms human health — and makes the case for companies to step up and help fix the climate crisis they’re causing.
- The Climate Justice Playbook for Business (Certified B Corporation, 2021): The Playbook calls on the global business community to make a fundamental shift in mindset and behavior, to evolve from extractive and exploitative to regenerative and equity-driven – putting those who are most impacted by climate change at the forefront of developing solutions.
Inclusion and Social Justice
- The Roots of Income Inequality (Gallup, 2019): Gallup’s principal economist, Jonathan Rothwell, summarizes his findings that income and wealth inequality have been driven by political economy and regulation, and that extreme inequality is driven by political power and not merit.
- Race and Equity Working Group (American Sustainable Business Council): The Council has developed a set of six principles for an inclusive and sustainable economy, aimed at achieving sustainability, diversity and representation through equal access to all forms of capital (social, financial, intellectual and natural). Six working groups focusing on issues such as election protection, community investment and investment responsibility have been stood up to achieve these principles.
- Dollars and sense: Corporate Responsibility in the Trump Era (Oxfam, 2018): Overview of where 70 major multinational corporations, across different sectors, put their lobbying money in terms of climate, justice, and taxes during the Trump era — and where there are contradictions. (See pg 21 for recommendations)
- Faster Growth, Fairer Growth (Niskanen Center): The authors of this report argue that regulatory capture, specifically in finance, health care and housing sectors, has created extensive roadblocks to achieving inclusive prosperity and advocate for a more dynamic high road economy built around equitable access to high quality services. (See pg 1-11)
Strong Civic Institutions
- Fixing US Politics (Gehl and Porter, Harvard Business Review, 2020): Founder of the Institute for Political Innovation and a Harvard Professor teamed up to identify the most powerful levers for transformation in American politics. Most notably, an increasing call from corporate leaders to reconsider frameworks that allow businesses to be entrenched in politics.
- The Business Case for Saving Democracy (Rebecca Henderson, Harvard Business Review, 2020) Henderson combines the public sentiment of distrust in corporate influence with evidence suggesting that free politics support free markets. She provides a strong case for businesses to fundamentally change their role from partisan players to supporters of the democratic process.
- 3 Actions CEOs Must Take to Uphold US Democracy (Paul Polman, Harvard Business Review, 2021): Paul Polman lays out the three necessary first steps businesses must take in corporate political responsibility reform: ending trade association lobbying, dissolving corporate PACS, and reversing citizens united and working on legislative reform.
- How Business Leaders Can Champion Democracy (Ballou-Aares and Vijayaraghavan, Harvard Business Review, 2020): This analysis of the increasingly murky cross section between business and government identifies key strategic opportunities for businesses to champion positive change through reformed political participation. The closing “chapter” to the same HBR series opened by Rebecca Henderson – touches on themes and opportunities to make change.
- With the Georgia voting law, corporate activists face a problem of their own making (Mary Hunter McDonnell, Fortune, 2021) Shows how historical companies have been engaging in political activities as if on two separate fields – but they are now facing the tension head on.
CPR & Reimagining Capitalism
- Reinventing Capitalism: A Transformation Agenda (World Business Council for Sustainable Development, 2020): Highlights key factors required to refocus capitalism on long-term inclusive growth, including specific practices and policies that businesses should support. (See pg 5-13)
- Challenges of Sustaining Capitalism (Committee for Economic Development, 2016): Offers a historical context and diagnosis on the role of business and government interactions around current trends in inequality and distrust. Poses questions on how businesses might reframe their role to best participate in rebuilding trust and addressing inequality.
- The Business Role in Creating a 21st-Century Social Contract (Business for Social Responsibility, 2020): BSR’s report (71 pages in full, 9-page summary linked here) focuses on creating a new social contract in business, focused on ample collaboration between public and private entities, so that we can face future challenges at scale. This review highlights the opportunity areas specifically for businesses.
- Do managers have a role to play in sustaining the institutions of capitalism? (Henderson and Ramanna, Brookings, 2016): Advocates for and examines the role of managers in weighing corporate political responsibility with traditional shareholder primacy when lobbying. Builds a strong case and suggests that companies consider whether the public is informed or has the necessary expertise.
- The Complicity of Corporate Sustainability (Schendler, SSIR, 2021) A CSR veteran argues that historical approaches to corporate sustainability have undermined systemic change, and that the time has come to look at public policy aspects of solutions.
- Financial System Transformation (World Benchmarking Alliance, 2021): Deep analysis of how to incorporate CPR into financial institutions, with a benchmarking proposal to drive successful market signaling initiatives. (See pg 3-20)
Case Studies in CPR
Specific examples of companies making progress on CPR.
Case Studies in Corporate Political Responsibility
- Changes to Political Giving — Microsoft on the issues (Microsoft): Microsoft’s commitment to reducing political giving after the Capitol riots.
- Getting Corporate Cash Out of Politics (IBM): IBM has never given money to political candidates, but it hasn’t kept them from having a seat at the table. The company believes that the rampage on the Capitol has presented businesses with an opportunity to make a statement without money rather than with it.
Tools & Frameworks
Emerging approaches and general guidelines for putting CPR into practice.
Corporate Political Responsibility Taskforce
- Corporate Political Responsibility in a World on Fire (Erb Institute): Presentation summarizing the avenues of corporate political influence, and providing frameworks for understanding standards and approaches to corporate political responsibility. Features takeaways from several significant thought leaders in the CPR space.
- Corporate Political Responsibility: What is business’ role in restoring trusted, well-functioning representative government?
- Model Code of Conduct for Political Spending (Wharton / Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research): A 12-point model code intended to serve as a roadmap for companies committing to ethical behavior as they engage in political activity.
- Responsible Lobbying Framework (Responsible Lobbying): Provides a five-principle framework for responsible lobbying. Helpful for companies trying to orient themselves on their value/stance development in their corporate political activities as actions in the space come under increased scrutiny.
- When Should Your Company Speak Out On An Issue? (Paul Argenti, Harvard Business Review, 2020): Considers three critical questions companies must ask themselves when deciding to speak out or take a stance on an issue. Assessment is oriented around alignment, potential influence, and constituency agreement.
- Public Policy Reporting Standards (Global Sustainability Standards Board, 2016): A list of proposed standards for companies looking to implement sustainable practices into their public policy activities. It evaluates companies against their direct or indirect political contributions, assessing their impacts on the economy, the environment or society.
- Measuring Stakeholder Capitalism (World Economic Forum, 2020): A core set of 21 metrics created by the WEF, in partnership with a handful of multinational companies, to best align with the political, social and environmental considerations necessary for implementing stakeholder capitalism.