Corporate Social Responsibility
Considering backing a political candidate? Strategies for organizations
By Crystal Hyde
Depending on your industry and the defining issues of an election, a political stance can attract or detract recruitment opportunities
By Crystal Hyde
If you have a strong affiliation to a particular political party or feel strongly about a candidate, you may want to consider how you can support them before and/or during the campaign.
As a citizen, it’s your right to support any party or person you like, but as part of an organization, you will want to consider a few things before you hammer a sign into the lawn outside your building.
Aligning yourself or your business with a party means publicly acknowledging that you believe in that party and its vision for Canada. For some industries, this is an important action to take to show your employees that you are advocating for them — nurses, teachers, and factory workers in particular.
Depending on your industry and the defining issues of this election, your stance can attract or detract recruitment opportunities. Adopting a vaccine policy, for instance, may offer a sense of relief or safety for some employees, while others will find it an overstep and judge your organization accordingly.
Benefits of remaining non-partisan
Often large corporations fear taking a hard stance because they want to ensure they are in good standing with any party that gets elected.
Policies to balance partisanship are established to avoid favouritism such as: no political visits on site, or every candidate gets an invite to demonstrate equal footing and an effort to work with all parties. When the government is elected this stance becomes the proof-point of collaboration and the company’s willingness to work with them.
If you wholeheartedly endorse one party and another gets voted in, your meeting request won’t be a priority.
Taking a political stance on behalf of your business can win you favour with the party or candidate you support should they get voted into government. On the other hand, employees and customers with different political views may judge your business, based on your ideology instead of on your product or service, and it could alienate those who are passionate about politics.
This is a fine line and should be tread carefully because big business policies can come at the cost of employee interests.
It can be argued that is what is good for the business is good for employees; however, perception in politics matters and if the policy is seen as harming employees it may be time to re-evaluate your stance.
Showing political support? Here’s how
After you’ve weighed your options and decided you want to use your business influence to support a candidate, what can you do?
- Contribute financially: Political contributions are disclosed by Elections Canada regularly as a matter of public record. Many organizations choose to make comparable personal contributions to all major parties (corporate contributions are not allowed federally) to show support for the electoral system, balance their giving and ensure they have shown support for whichever party gets sworn into government.
- Join the campaign: In addition to a financial contribution, you can display a campaign sign or offer to host an event for your local candidate, as a way to show your clear endorsement of one candidate over another. Signage provided and approved by the candidate can only be posted during the formal campaign period.
- Social endorsement: You can tap into social media to endorse a candidate or write letters to the editor to share your views on an issue or candidate — keeping in mind that, during a campaign, most news outlets invoke strict guidelines to prevent partisan reporting.
- Engage your employees: Emailing political propaganda to your employees is never a good idea. If they are part of a union, the union will share partisan content. However, sending information to employees on a specific issue that affects your business with an explanation of the issue at hand and what your business needs to thrive is okay. A good way to balance this communication is to also send a formal letter to each candidate asking for them to take action on the issue. You can then note, in your communication, if a particular candidate or party has come out in favour, opposed or simply didn’t reply to your request. The key is to mention each party’s response.
Elections Canada has specific rules for contributions, spending by candidates and political parties as well as signage and advertising during the formal campaign period. So, before taking any steps, you will want to consult the specific rules.
The Elections Canada website is a good place to start and be sure to review the “Tools for Third Parties” section.
As an organization, there are many factors to consider before publicly endorsing a candidate, and it’s important to look at the implications from many angles before making the leap.
While an election can be a very exciting time and a chance to support a candidate you are passionate about, it is also important to be aware of sensitivities while making the best choices for you and your business during and after an election.
Crystal Hyde is a professional certified coach in Waterloo, Ont., and founder of Propel Leadership Coaching, which specializes in communications consulting and leadership coaching.