I cannot help but feel slightly uncomfortable about the title of my own article. The phrase “corporate America” in itself has likely not been used alongside “ally” in decades, or perhaps maybe ever. This nickname for the monetary machine running under the hood of the United States economy carries with it the sentiments of 1970s protestors and greedy businesspeople counting their money in the dark. However, encouragingly progressive decisions on firearm and pollution related issues this past week by multiple large companies have made me think twice. With our government failing to accomplish any major reforms on critical issues over the past several months, I think the nation may find an unlikely ally in corporate America.
In the process of doing research for this piece I stumbled across an editorial written by The Hill contributor Krystal Ball. In her article “Dear Democrats, Corporate America is not your Friend,” Ball argues that (despite what I believe is evidence to the contrary) big business is not on anyone’s side but their own. I will explain in more detail later why I disagree with her, but first I need to introduce the changes made by companies that gave the two of us something to write about.
One of my favorite headlines from this year so far came last week, as Lego announced they are committing to making all their products from plant-based materials by 2030. As a fan of both Lego and the global climate, this news could not have come soon enough. Even climate change deniers should have no trouble agreeing that one problem Mother Earth is facing is pollution. So-called “trash islands” are accumulating in our oceans and bottles and bags are washing up on our beaches. The fact that most plastics are both non-recyclable and single use has given the Earth a garbage problem. To make matters worse, the American government has done little to help alleviate this issue. President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accords should be all the indication necessary of where his administration stands on the issue.
In the wake of the Parkland shooting, several companies made reassuring announcements about firearm regulation. Unsurprisingly, the U.S government failed to make any concrete decisions even after two weeks’ time on whether to pursue gun control measures. Our nation is the only one where mass shootings are becoming commonplace; inaction is the least acceptable action. In a bold move, several large gun retailers- Walmart, Kroger, and Dick’s Sporting Goods in particular- decided to take matter into their own hands. All three retailers (who are not owned by one company) decided to raise the minimum age to purchase a firearm in any of their stores to 21. Additionally, Dick’s made the decision to stop carrying assault rifles, a move which Walmart took back in 2015.
Returning to Krystal Ball’s article, the main point she makes is that corporate America only makes changes like these to help their bottom line. I do not disagree with that statement. I believe that these large companies will continue to make choices that keep them where the money is. However, where Ball and I disagree is that she argues these choices are not enough to consider a company as friendly. If the moves they are making (whether or not they are made to gain profit) happen to align their interests with mine, why turn away from them?
If a company like Lego which uses plastic in every single one of their products can commit to a change, then we may have a real shot at pushing plastic into the past. If enormous retailers like Kroger and Walmart can be bold enough to make their own gun control, maybe other companies can too. The only risk is in rejecting them. If consumers decide that these maneuvers mean nothing, then corporations will cease to make them. We need corporate America to keep going so that the entire nation begins to feel their pressure. I understand where Ball is coming from, but I am optimistic on behalf of big business. We can choose to keep an eye on their motives and still show our support for this new wave of company-based policy changes. If they are going to start standing up for issues I believe in, I am willing to at least call corporate America an unlikely ally.
Ball, Krystal. “Dear Democrats, Corporate America Is Not Your Friend.” The Hill, News Communications Inc, 3 Mar. 2018
Bromwich, Jonah Engel. “Kroger Raises Age Limits on Gun Sales, Joining Walmart and Dick’s.” Nytimes.com, The New York Times, 1 Mar. 2018.
Molina, Brett. “Sustainable, Plant-Based Legos Are Coming. They’ll Still Hurt When You Step on Them.” CNBC, CNBC, 2 Mar. 2018.