CEO Activism: Corporate Executives Take A Stand On Critical Social Issues


David Ryan leads the financial communications practice for Edelman in Canada. Over the past 20 years, he has provided corporate and financial communications counsel on range of complex mandates, including acute reputational challenges, operational crises, litigation, hostile and friendly takeovers, shareholder activism, restructurings and insolvency proceedings, and management changes, as well as normal course corporate profile building.

Christopher P. Skroupa: What is CEO activism?

David Ryan: It’s first important to differentiate what we now refer to as “CEO activism” from traditional corporate social responsibility (CSR); while CSR typically involves social activity with an obvious connection to a company’s business strategy, CEO activism involves chief executives taking a stand on critical, social issues that are not necessarily related to their business. There’s a number of examples of CEO activism, particularly in the United States, where iconic CEOs have taken a position on prominent social issues. For example, Howard Schultz took a stand on racial inequality, an issue not directly related to his business strategy, but nonetheless an important social issue.

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