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紐時賞析/美國企業 愛用公開信表態

美國企業愛用公開信表態。示意圖/ingimage
美國企業愛用公開信表態。示意圖/ingimage

How Public Letters Became Companies’ Favorite Form of Activism

美國企業 愛用公開信表態

Over the past few years, CEOs have taken a stance on a variety of issues that previous generations of business leaders might have avoided altogether. Some have pledged money or reassessed their firm’s political giving. Mostly, though, they have written and signed countless public letters.

過去幾年,美國許多企業執行長針對前幾代商界領袖根本不碰的各類議題表達立場。有人承諾捐款,有的許諾重新評估該公司政治獻金,不過多數是撰寫和簽署大量公開信。

Anti-LGBTQ legislation, police brutality against Black Americans, violence against Asian Americans and the recent efforts to restrict voting access have all prompted strongly worded statements from some of the nation’s most prominent business figures. In one case, hundreds of them signed a letter together.

立法反對女同性戀、男同性戀、雙性戀、變性人及非異性戀人士,警察殘暴對待非裔,亞裔遭暴力攻擊,以及最近許多州推動增加投票難度的法案,都激起美國一些最知名商界人物發出措辭強烈的聲明,其中一次是數以百計要角共同簽署公開信。

It can be easy to dismiss the significance of a letter as a tool of change. A signed statement is, quite literally, all talk, and it doesn’t guarantee any further action. But these letters also mark a shift in the relationship between companies and their employees and customers, and in the scope of the role that CEOs are expected to play in the social and political landscape.

公開信促進改變的重要性,很容易被貶低。署名公開信確實是空口說白話,不表示一定會有進一步行動。不過,公開信也意味企業和員工與顧客之間關係轉變,以及社會與政治層面期望執行長們扮演的角色範疇有所改變。

“The tipping point really was the 2016 election,” said Meike Eilert, who researches company and consumer behavior, most recently at the University of Kentucky.

最近在美國肯塔基大學研究企業與顧客行為的美克.艾勒特說:「臨界點就是2016年總統大選。」

As politics were becoming more divisive, Gen Z was entering the workforce and gaining power as consumers. “Digitally native generations, but especially Gen Z, put a lot of pressure on companies to stand up and demonstrate their values,” she said.

政治變得更對立之際,Z世代進入勞動市場並成為有力的消費者。艾勒特說:「數位原生世代,尤其Z世代,對企業施加很大壓力,要企業挺身表達價值。」

The nature of the issues at the core of these conversations has also changed. Recent CEO letters against voting legislation, for example, are a case not of demanding change but of speaking up for democratic rights enshrined in law decades ago.

這些對話核心議題的本質也有改變,例如,最近幾封反對增加投票難度法案的執行長公開信,不是在要求變革,而是在強調數十年前就受法律保護的民主權利。

“What you’re seeing is CEOs holding the center,” said Michael Toffel, a professor at Harvard Business School who studies CEO activism. Ten years ago, securing voting rights would not have been considered a “liberal” thing, he said, adding: “It would have been kind of an American thing.”

哈佛商學院教授塔佛研究執行長如何參與社會運動,他說,「執行長們在力守中道」,十年前,捍衛投票權不會被認為是「自由派」的事,「這應該是美國人都認同的事」。

So why turn to an open letter? Companies want to balance the shift in consumer and employee expectations with pressure from investors, who have historically tended to frown on any efforts that could divert resources from shareholder value. Writing a letter is a relatively safe way to do that, suggested a paper in the Journal of Marketing last year. Signing a group letter is even safer.

那為什麼要寫公開信?企業想在消費者與員工期望和投資人壓力之間求取平衡,而投資人過往傾向反對用股東價值資源做其他事。去年在行銷期刊發表的一篇研究顯示,寫封公開信是求取平衡相對安全的作法,與他人聯名發表公開信更安全。

Consumers and employees “do not accept silence as neutrality anymore,” Nooshin Warren, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Arizona said.

亞利桑那大學行銷助理教授努欣.華倫說,消費者和員工「不再接受沉默是中道」。

文/Corinne Purtill 譯/李京倫

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