Public Relations More Important than Bottom Line?

by Evelyn Donatelli

2017 marked the deadliest year in US mass shootings, a fact with which the public is acutely aware. Social media has magnified the outraged voices of groups across the country through campaigns like #BoycottNRA and #DemandAPlan, which aim to put pressure on businesses and lawmakers to effect meaningful gun control. 

Impact investing has entered the conversation after the most recent shooting, February 14th in Parkland, CA, when companies both private (e.g. First National Bank of Omaha) and public (e.g. $DAL, $UAL, $SIR) began publicly disavowing and severing business ties with the National Rifle Association (NRA). Through these public disavowments, it became transparent that companies had been offering NRA members discounts in exchange for favorable tax treatment. 

The decision to end business relationships with the NRA has been credited, by many companies involved, to consumer complaints. The cost on paper of the severing of this relationship is, in Delta’s case, the loss of a $40M tax break. Clearly, corporate leadership feels that the impact of this investment in consumer opinion will outweigh that of a tax break which has grown too controversial to maintain.