Businesses Face Consequences of Cancel Culture: The E&C Pulse

February 17, 2021
Ben DiPietro

Whether you call it "cancel culture" because you think it's overly politically correct and stifling to free speech, or whether you call it "consequence culture" because you believe leaders and organizations must be held accountable, businesses are dealing with the risks of being called out for their behavior on social media.

People feel empowered by social media to engage with companies about everything from how they make their products, to the stances they take on societal issues, to whether their rhetoric matches their actions. And so much more.

Those messages can be seen by millions of people, and have forced companies to act to issues being raised, everything from demanding a reversal of a policy, the firing of an executive, or a call to boycott their products and services.

A recent survey by Porter Novelli found large majorities of people feel empowered to voice their opinions on companies and how they behave, and that they feel can have influence on changing the way an organization acts.

And these folks are willing to act, as 36% of U.S. consumers said they have canceled a company in the past 12 months. Even companies with sterling reputations have reason to take pause from this survey, as 66% said they would stop buying products or services from a company they love if it does or says something they feel is wrong or unethical.

What is likely to get a company canceled? Seven in 10 said issues related to racial justice, 69% said women’s rights issues, 68% said COVID protocols. Further down the list: immigration (61%), climate change (57%), and politics (54%).

On the bright side, companies that get canceled can gain redemption. Nearly nine in 10 people said they would be willing to forgive an organization if it makes a genuine attempt to change, while more than eight in 10 said they would be more likely to forgive a company for its first offense. 

Nearly 40% said they hope that by canceling a company they will get it to “change its ways,” while 27% said their goal was to change a company’s political stances. Fourteen percent cited “making the company go away completely” as their main reason.

About three in four said they would be less willing to cancel a company if it is purpose-driven, which is further validation of everything we talk about and promote here at LRN, and why being driven by the right values in pursuit of a worthy mission is vital to a company's long-term survival.

                                                                                                        BEN DIPIETRO


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About the Author

Ben DiPietro

Joined LRN in October 2018 after 30 years as a journalist, including seven years at The Wall Street Journal, including Risk & Compliance Journal and was a creator of the WSJ Crisis of the Week column. In 2015 was named one of the 100 most influential people in business ethics by Ethisphere Institute. Spent 14 years as a reporter in Hawaii, 11 with The Associated Press.

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