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Mar 09, 2023

Europe’s IROs most keen for companies to speak out on social and political issues

Investors less enthusiastic about companies taking a stand

Europe’s IR professionals are most likely to believe that companies should take a stand on socio-political issues, according to new research from IR Magazine.

For many issues, such as employment rights, women’s rights and public healthcare, more than 90 percent of European IROs say issuers should have a stated position, finds the Corporate Social Activism report.

The study, which polled the views of nearly 800 IROs and more than 100 investors, notes that North American IR professionals are less eager for their companies to be outspoken about social and political topics.

Group of women laughing together
Photo: Priscilla Du Preez

For example, just 67 percent of the region’s respondents say companies should have a public position on women’s rights, compared with 93 percent in Europe and 73 percent in Asia.

On the topic of general democratic rights, less than half (44 percent) of North American IR professionals want issuers to share their views, versus 79 percent in Europe and 55 percent in Asia.

Speaking up

Over recent years, businesses have come under increasing pressure to state their position on a range of issues, from Black Lives Matter and climate change to abortion, LGBTQ+ rights and the war in Ukraine.

Some companies, however, have faced a backlash for taking a stand, with critics arguing they should stay out of social or environmental issues that aren’t relevant to their core operations. Speaking up also carries the risk of angering politicians who hold opposing views.

Investors are less keen than IROs for companies to discuss socio-political topics, according to the IR Magazine report.

Many see ‘little or no importance in corporate positioning on these issues,’ write the report authors. ‘Even so, a majority of investors still express the importance of having a stated position on every identified issue except LGBTQ+ rights.’

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