I have a chip on my shoulder, something I need to get off my chest, and I’m going to try to do it with as much tact as possible because some things are volatile by their very nature. Some things generate controversy and my intent isn’t to inflame people or offend them. I just gotta say this.
I hate it when companies “come out” with opinions on matters of social interest. I believe that a company’s best interest is in their products, not in lacing their products with their beliefs.
Gay rights is a really hot issue right now, and it should be. This post is not here to say that gay rights (marriage, equality, etc) is good or bad. My opinions on that can get very feisty and I prefer not to piss people off. Rather, I want to point out a few things about the recent trend I’ve been seeing where companies whose products have nothing to do with human rights are coming out with statements concerning these rights.
Did you catch Barilla’s statement last month? In September, the chairman of the Barilla Group (best known in the U.S. for its pasta products) Guido Barilla came out with a comment in an interview as to why his advertising strategies did not feature gay couples. The full interview can be found here, but here is my paraphrasing: Barilla does not feature gay families in their advertisements because they feel that gay couples should not be raising children via adoption and that women are central to a family. They don’t want to advertise their products to families that don’t fit their idea of natural.
Withholding my personal opinions on this matter, I want to instead questions Barilla’s actions based on a more economical platform. Exactly what did they hope to accomplish here? I’m not a big business person, I don’t own a company and I have no experience in running a gigantic corporation. But it seems to me that when making public statements on behalf of the company, you might want to refrain from saying anything inflammatory that might alienate or infuriate a portion of your customers. A better answer might have been, “Next question, please.”
When I go to the grocery store, I have enough on my mind when it comes to selecting food. I look at nutrition labels and ingredients lists and prices. I don’t want to also have to Google every company’s recent activity to be certain I’m not purchasing products that go against my personal beliefs. When did it become appropriate for food companies to publicly state their beliefs like this? If he was talking about only buying wheat from growers who don’t use child labor, that’s an entirely different matter. It directly affects his product, and our consumption. But what the hell does gay marriage and adoption have to do with pasta?
Not a damned thing.
I find it utterly insensible how many companies are positing their beliefs at the public level. Is that the thing to do now? Make socially volatile statements on behalf of an entire company? What if people in your company don’t agree with the statement you made on their behalf? What if a lot of people don’t agree? What if your statements call down a backlash like the wrath of the titans that decimates your company’s profits?
My point is this: I don’t think these companies have any business professing personal ideals and beliefs at the company level if those ideals and beliefs are not directly related to their product. I do not feel that the CEOs, chairmen, and shareholders of these companies have any right to blab their opinions for the world to hear under the guise of some sort of seat of power. “I am a CEO, therefore my opinion will be published in a newspaper and transmitted to the masses.” At no point does becoming a CEO make your opinions on pertinent social issues more valid or more relevant. I think it is highly irresponsible for publications to print these interviews and opinions and even more irresponsible for company representatives to indulge these pointless questions.
Don’t misunderstand me: these people have a right to voice their opinions. What they lack is the common sense to keep these opinions to themselves. Politics shouldn’t be getting involved in my food, my clothing, my furniture, my car, or my cosmetics.
So I’ll have the pasta, but hold the politics please.