Global corporations increasingly face the consequences of dysfunctional governments in many aspects of their business. While corporations, in the minds of many, exert outsized influence on specific policies relating to their self-interest, they are just as helpless as everyone else when it comes to ameliorating the twin threats of fading economic growth and exploding debt.
What if corporations decided to exert their influence not just on their spheres of direct influence but more broadly on the macro-challenges facing the United States and most of the West? I am raising this question because of a campaign Google announced the other day that I don’t think has received the attention it deserves. Google plans to run “Legalize Love” campaigns around the world to make gay marriage legal. The company, according to a spokesperson, plans to start in some of the world’s most homophobic countries, such as Poland and Singapore, and expand efforts from there.
This is quite extraordinary when you think about it. Gay marriage may not be on the same level of complexity and import as the global recession and impending debt crisis, but it is a controversial issue on which Google is not only taking a clear stand but putting resources into changing government policies that, while relevant to its business interests — the ability to hire the best people regardless of race or sexual orientation — is arguably not central to them. It makes me wonder what would happen if other popular American companies such as General Electric, Johnson and Johnson, Apple, Walt Disney or Goodyear decided to run a coordinated, well-funded campaign — with their names on it — to educate Americans about what needs to be done to stimulate economic growth and put our budget on a sustainable path.
Many global corporations lobby and advocate for positions through their own offices and trade groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable. Sometimes these efforts concern topics of more general social or economic interest, such as education and innovation. But companies have been loath to spend shareholder resources or extend their brand names to causes that might be viewed as controversial. But if the stagnation of global governments continues, this corporate policy might need to change.