Congress votes today on expanding gun background checks. This isn't the kind of story I'd normally lead this daily email with -- but the interesting thing for business leaders is to ask why a group of CEOs have decided to lobby Congress on it.

Among them: the heads of TOMS shoes, Dick's Sporting Goods, RKR Realty in New York, and Levi Strauss, who all released an open letter calling on Congress to pass the bill. 

Dick's is a public company. Levi Strauss is set to go public. Yet here they are, proactively taking stands that some customers might love, and others might loathe. It's striking how quickly all this changed, too. Businesses were once at pains to try to stay neutral on politics.

In an age of social media, however, fans and critics are likely to demand that companies take a stand. And if you try to avoid it, not taking a stand becomes a stand in itself. As the 1970s band Rush put it: "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice."

I admit I might be getting a bit older since I'm quoting 1970s rock bands. But the point is clear: Faced with the fact that neutrality only ticks people off, more brands are leaning in now, and taking a stand. 

Delta's CEO went on LinkedIn recently to describe why he ended an NRA discount. Patagonia endorses Democrats for political office.

And it's not just liberal causes: Hobby Lobby was the named plaintiff in a successful lawsuit to overturn part of Obamacare, and Bass Pro Shops sponsors the NRA's museum.

I'm not sure which I prefer: the new, socially active brands or the older way of doing things that said, "Heck, both Democrats and Republicans spend money. Why offend anyone?"

But that down-the-middle attitude seems harder to hold. It's an issue most companies are going to have to face -- and maybe sooner than they think.

Here's what else I'm reading today:

Published on: Feb 27, 2019
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