Following the decision of the US supreme court to overturn its 1973 decision on Roe v. Wade, essentially outlawing abortions in many US states, a wide range of brands moved to clarify their opposition to the ruling and outline what they intend to do — both for their employees and for those people affected by the changes in the law.
Corporate giants that employ people across the US issued statements outlining how their employee’s health care benefits packages will now cover the cost of travel for procedures, allowing their staff to leave states where it is outlawed and access it safely in states where it is not.
Citi, JPMorgan, and Goldman Sachs all sent internal emails to their employees detailing the additional benefits, with JPMorgan clarifying that “beginning in July, we will expand this benefit to include all covered services that can only be obtained far from your home, which would include legal abortion.”
Citi’s head of human resources, Sara Wechter, also explained in a company memo that “we will continue to provide benefits that support our colleagues’ family planning choices wherever we are legally permitted to do so,”
Microsoft, Apple, Meta, Disney, Condé Nast, Warner Bros Discovery, and Netflix all released similar statements to their staff.
However, as of June 27th, 2022, many of America’s biggest corporate names had yet to comment on the issue at all — including McDonald’s, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, General Motors, and Walmart. Indeed, The Business Roundtable, which represents CEOs from some of the US’s most powerful companies, said that it “does not have a position on the merits of the case”.
Elsewhere, Business leaders from a range of well-known brands issued their own statements to renounce and condemn the decision by the US supreme court and outline their commitment to ensuring the procedure is safely available to those who need it.
CEO of Bumble, Whitney Wolfe Herd, issued a statement vowing to “support organizations committed to reinforcing reproductive rights” and the company’s intentions to pay “additional financial contributions to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas and Planned Parenthood Federation of America.”
Meanwhile, the CEO of Salesforce, Marc Benioff, released a statement on Twitter saying:
“I believe CEOs have a responsibility to take care of their employees—no matter what. Salesforce moves employees when they feel threatened or experience discrimination. To our Ohana—we always make sure you have the best benefits & care, & we will always have your back. Always.”
And CEO of Youtube, Susan Wojcicki, also tweeted her opposition to the ruling:
“As a CEO I recognize there are a spectrum of opinions on the SCOTUS ruling today. As a woman, it’s a devastating setback. I personally believe every woman should have a choice about how and when to become a mother. Reproductive rights are human rights.”
Whether consumers will demand more action than just hand wringing is still yet to be seen. Indeed, while corporations are expanding the health benefits afforded to their employees, many still donate funds either directly or indirectly to politicians that are in favor of restricting or outlawing abortions.
Jen Stark, Senior Director of Corporate Strategy at the women’s health grantmaking organization, Tara Health Foundation, believes that “companies need to act on abortion restrictions beyond mitigating effects for their employees” — advocating instead for companies to use their lobbying powers and scrutinize political donations.
This certainly resonates with how consumers generally feel about brands whenever they comment on political topics. Rather than statements of support, consumers want decisive action — with 42% reporting that they make an effort to look into the “actions, policies and practices of brands as they relate to social issues”
Those brands looking to use important social issues like this, merely as a means of marketing, will most likely be caught out and called out — just as many brands that are guilty of greenwashing are.
Indeed, those that are confused about or even opposed to brands making such statements need to understand that the rise of corporate social responsibility and the growth of cause marketing can be attributed to a trend that now sees 59% of consumers more likely to be loyal to a brand that supports causes they care about.
In essence, consumers want to know where brands stand on important issues, which means many must delve into hot political topics — whether they want to or not. In the coming days and weeks, those opposed to the Supreme Court's ruling — as well those who support it — will certainly be looking for brands to signal where they stand on the issue. That the ruling is out of step with the views of a majority of Americans, as well as consumers in other international markets, may mean that supporters of the court's decision will see few big brands reflecting their values.