Corporate activism, which was expected to continue during the Biden administration, took a new turn today with the launch of the “Move the Needle” campaign by the Business Roundtable. The initiative will support the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines, help increase vaccine uptake and encourage individuals to continue to wear masks and take other precautions as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to combat the coronavirus crisis.
The announcement by the business group came a day after Biden commemorated the 50 millionth vaccination shot in the U.S., which marked the half-way point in reaching his goal of 100 million shots in 100 days.
Critical Role For Private Sector
“In addition to developing the vaccine, the private sector is playing a critical role in doing everything we can to defeat this pandemic—from lending expertise to help dispatch doses more efficiently, to playing a leading role in administering the vaccine itself,” said Business Roundtable Chairman Doug McMillon, who is also president and CEO of Walmart.
“But there is more to be done, which is why we are launching the ‘Move the Needle’ campaign. Through this effort, America’s leading employers are stepping up and leveraging our resources to help ensure successful vaccination around the country,” McMillon noted.
According to the Business Roundtable, the campaign will be implemented via digital platforms, radio, and national cable television, and through the hashtag #IGottheShot. Members of the organization will ramp up engagement with their employees, suppliers and customers to advance wider and consistent adoption of Covid-19 safety practices and vaccines, and emphasize the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines to skeptical audiences.
Business Working In The Public Interest
Maury Peiperl, the dean of the School of Business at George Mason University, said the “Move the Needle” campaign “…is a clear example of business working in the public interest, not unlike the rapid vaccine development and distribution process itself.
“It’s another example of business stepping up to engage in salvaging the present and building the future, at a time when many are looking first to business leaders, rather than political. Talking about stakeholder capitalism is one thing; demonstrating it is another.
“Given that the Biden administration is clearly dedicated to inclusivity and fighting disinformation and inequality, it is not surprising, but is nonetheless encouraging, to see the Business Roundtable stepping up in this way. Look for more such proactive social initiatives from business in the weeks and months to come,” Peiperl predicted.
New Level Of Corporate Activism
In December, I reported that 42 major companies—including Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, IBM, and General Motors—joined forces with the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) to urge President-elect Biden and the new Congress to work together to pass bipartisan climate policies. The companies also expressed support for the U.S. to rejoin the Paris Accord.
In a story last month, I wrote about the risks and benefits for companies and organizations that provide incentives for employees to get their shot. Earlier this week, Allstate announced that will give their employees paid time off so they can get Covid shots during working hours. In their announcement to staff, the insurance company said “Covid-19 vaccines offer promising hope to mitigate the spread of the pandemic and it’s important for companies to help remove barriers for employees who wish to receive it.”
But the Business Roundtable’s campaign appears to take corporate activism to a new and more intense level, going beyond the advocacy of policy or seeking to create awareness about an issue. Participating corporations and organizations will have access to and utilize advocacy, education, and engagement tools to reach employees and others that have rarely, if ever, been employed to such an extent in a national crisis —and certainly not to combat a pandemic.
“With the shift to stakeholder capitalism, we are continuing to see private sector companies (like Starbucks and Uber’s recent efforts with vaccine distribution) come together to fill voids and support government initiatives, like Covid recovery. The Move the Needle initiative is a powerful example of how business leaders are stepping up to bring the business, government, and non-profit sectors together to produce positive impact at a critical moment for our society,” he said.
Sense Of Urgency
There is certainly a sense of urgency about the “Move the Needle” campaign — earlier this week the country reached the grim milestone of more than 500,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic 12 months ago.
Although vaccines were developed in record time, there is also a record number of people who are expressing doubt, skepticism, and outright refusal to get their shots which will work against achieving herd immunity and ending the national public health crisis as soon as possible.
This is a growing concern for health officials that the Business Roundtable will also address through their initiative.
What’s Driving The Trend
Corporate responsibility expert Susan McPerson said, “It’s no secret that corporate activism has been particularly prevalent in the past year. The business world was already trending toward a more stakeholder-driven model, but the challenges presented by Covid, environmental concerns, and outrage around racial injustice have accelerated this change, obliging business leaders to re-evaluate their stance on corporate purpose.
“Move the Needle reflects this transformation and the business world’s assertion that companies should not just exist to line the pockets of leadership, but to benefit all stakeholders. It holds a mirror to brands and signals the further incorporation of the commitment to stakeholders into the purpose of a corporation,” she noted.
“Business Roundtable is posing a question to everyone from entrepreneurs to the Fortune 500 C-suite: Who is at the heart of your business strategy? What more can you do to improve the world through your work?,” McPerson asked.
The success of the “Move the Needle” campaign could have far-reaching implications for President Biden’s goals and objectives.
Christina Shim is head of the commercial innovation practice at the Palladium Group, an international advisory and management company. She said today’s announcement, “is an interesting example of the increased responsibility that corporations have in society and how that is accelerating going forward.
“This is particularly noteworthy given the politicization of public health that has happened in this country over the course of the last year. Many people who may not listen to what the Biden administration is saying from a public health perspective may listen to their business leaders, employers, and colleagues in a way that has meaningful impact and can support our fight against Covid-19. This can be replicated on other issues in a way that politicians or those affiliated with certain administrations might not be able to achieve,” she said.
Shim concluded that, “Corporate activism is here to stay and [will have an impact] on the most pertinent and current issues of the day.”