As if today’s CEO did not have enough on their plate, they now have to decide if they will involve their company, their employees, their shareholders and their customers in the white-hot social issues of the day. These are not easy decisions. They have serious moral as well as economic consequences.

I live in Georgia and we have been the center of the US political universe these last few months. After a razor-thin presidential vote, we had an unprecedented dual senate race that would determine the control of the US Senate. Once the dust settled on that race, we became the focal point of election reform or voter discrimination, depending on your perspective. Our local industry titans, Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola, waded into the debate and the blowback was severe.

Were they brave to take a stand, or did they overstep their relationship with their stakeholders? Reasonable people could and should be able to discuss this issue. What is an authentic response and what is merely virtue signaling? These issues will be debated in board rooms the world over the next few years, if not longer.

I have no idea what the right answer is. However, I think it hinges on a company’s mission. One CEO said, “Companies today with great intentions can sometimes create division and unwelcoming environment internally by engaging some of these issues.” He went on to argue that the company’s engagement on social issues should be tied to the company’s mission. Companies should pick something big to solve in the world (their mission) and when a social issue intersects with that mission, it would be authentic to have a response.

There is a role for business to play in shaping our society, just as there is a role for government, faith communities, families and others. Each group brings a unique perspective and responsibility. It seems to me that a well-run company is usually executing on a clearly defined mission. That is the primary role of any business. This framework seems like a logical extension for a defining how a business should engage in these social issues.

If today’s leaders truly want to make a difference they should simply adhere to the Golden Rule, treating others the same way they want to be treated. Think Straight, Talk Straight.

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Kirk Hancock