Equinox and SoulCycle are feeling the burn. When headlines broke that Stephen Ross, chairman and majority owner of the fitness brands’ parent company, is hosting a fundraiser to support President Trump, consumers and celebrities vehemently called for boycotts. In response, Ross has tried to assume a moderate view by stating that he and Trump “agree on some issues [and] strongly disagree on many others,” while Equinox and SoulCycle, which advocate for left-leaning values like equality and inclusion, have tried to distance themselves from Ross by casting him as nothing more than “a passive investor.” But consumers aren’t buying it.
Values-based consumers have been assessing companies’ political and social affiliations for years — now, they prove that executives’ personal values are critical to their assessment. Today:
Consumer backlash on social media may cool down as quickly as it escalated, but this episode is more than an intense interval: It signals increasing consumer transparency and sensitivity toward executives’ personal beliefs and warns of the tension that arises when executive and company values appear to oppose each other.
Executives must prepare for rising values-based consumers and employees by trading diplomatic equivocation for clarity in their personal values — and by realizing that business is no longer a remote entity; rather, consumers associate businesses with leaders’ personal beliefs. Three-quarters of business leaders already say their perspective on their role has changed in the past five years; now, 57% consider their business as their vehicle to make a positive difference.
Anjali Lai, senior analyst at Forrester, contributed this article, which can also be found here.
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