There’s an interesting debate about the corporate world: should it be apolitical or take a stance?

Actually, in the form of a formal Oxford debating society version of this debate, I should say that:

This House believes that companies should avoid politics

Our first speaker is Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase.

It has become common for Silicon Valley companies to engage in a wide variety of social activism, even those unrelated to what the company does, and there are certainly employees who really want this in the company they work for …

We don’t engage here when issues are unrelated to our core mission, because we believe impact only comes with focus …

We don’t advocate for any particular causes or candidates internally that are unrelated to our mission, because it is a distraction from our mission. Even if we all agree something is a problem, we may not all agree on the solution …

The reason is that while I think these efforts are well intentioned, they have the potential to destroy a lot of value at most companies, both by being a distraction, and by creating internal division. We’ve seen what internal strife at companies like Google and Facebook can do to productivity, and there are many smaller companies who have had their own challenges here. I believe most employees don’t want to work in these divisive environments. They want to work on a winning team that is united and making progress toward an important mission. They want to be respected at work, have a welcoming environment where they can contribute, and have growth opportunities. They want the workplace to be a refuge from the division that is increasingly present in the world.

Thank you Brian. And now our first speaker against the motion: Jack Dorsey, founder and CEO of Twitter and Square:

Seconding the motion is Y Combinator founder Paul Graham.

And seconding the opposition are Coinbase’s employees, as illustrated by this tweet from Erica Joy, Director of Engineering at Github:


Can a company be apolitical in 2020?

Can a leadership team avoid a stance on Black Lives Matter, White Supremacy, Climate Change, Uighur Muslims in China, Global Poverty, Financial Inclusion …?

This strikes to the heart of purpose-driven organisations where, if you don’t stand for something, you don’t stand for anything.

What do you think?

Posted on: October 2, 2020