The Disney debate has certainly been an interesting one. For discussion purposes, allow me to offer a concise, factual timeline:
- On March 8th, the Florida state legislature passed the “Parental Rights in Education” bill. Dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by opponents, the legislation prohibits “classroom instruction” on sexual orientation and gender identity for students in kindergarten through third grade.
- On March 9th, Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced that the Walt Disney Company publicly opposes the bill and will work to combat this and similar legislation in other states.
- Following the onset of the public dispute, polling revealed support for the bill by a two-to-one margin when presented with the actual language of the bill. (See data here.)
- On April 22nd, the Florida state legislature voted to dissolve an act made law in 1967 that essentially allowed the Walt Disney complex to operate as a private government. The dissolution is set to be effective in June of 2023.
People have reacted in multiple ways… to the contents of the parental rights bill… to Disney’s initial silence… to the role of social media and public pressure… to the state’s perceived retaliatory response… and more.
Respecting, of course, all angles and opinions, let’s address the bigger issue…
What’s the role of business in politics?
And also, how far should corporate wokeness go?
“Woke” or “wokeness” continues to evolve. In its simplest form, the terminology conveys an awareness of social issues. Some see it as a virtue — others, an insult.
But the bottom line question — that’s relevant in the current Disney debate and seemingly a fantastic question to earnestly, respectfully ask — is how far should a company go in regard to political involvement, especially, when the issue doesn’t directly affect them.
And… do the totality of the opinions of their stakeholders matter? … noting, of course, that a company’s stakeholders typically adhere to a wide spectrum of beliefs.
It’s an excellent question.
I’ve been toying this week with the opinion of former McDonald’s CEO Ed Rensi (the man who’s actually credited with inventing the infamous “McNugget”), who said, “Corporations have no business being on the right or the left because they represent everybody there and their sole job is to build equity for their investors… It is not the providence of board members or executives that take shareholder money profit and spend it on social matters.”
I’m assuming such recognizes the wide spectrum of stakeholders’ beliefs.
Friends, I don’t have an easy answer to this question.
As a citizen of the Sunshine State (and yes, in the same county as the Walt Disney complex is technically a part of), my desire is for the Disney CEO and Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis to meet together, seeing if they can avoid the June 2023 self-government dissolution.
I’d also like them to listen well, respect each other, and sincerely ask and answer these questions. How far is too far for a corporation to go?
How far is too far especially if a company’s advocacy or opposition doesn’t fully represent their stakeholders?
How can we work better together on this and other issues?
P.S. For the record, I was at Epcot on Monday, one of my favorite parks to routinely visit. Soarin’, Test Track, and Mission: SPACE are totally awesome attractions! The Pandora ride at Animal Kingdom is the best, though. Be sure not to miss it.
It’s a small world, after all.