Trump Manufacturing Council Roundup: When the CEOs Said ‘See Ya’

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Alas, President Trump’s Manufacturing Jobs Initiative has sadly drawn to an abrupt close in the wake of the events in Charlottesville.

As you’ve surely heard by now, Trump disbanded the council once a critical mass of CEOs and other business sector leaders stepped down.

One day before his official decision, announced on Twitter (is there any other way?), the President tweeted one of my favorite tweets of his in recent memory:

In the name of those jobs (!) that the president and other manufacturing leaders are indeed concerned about, we thought we’d take a look back at the explicit rationale that many of the CEOs and business leaders gave in either stepping down or sticking with it before the dissolution of the council.

Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t try to at least take a stab at what it all could mean for procurement.

What the CEOs Said

Here’s a selection of what several of those council members said, according to Fortune:

Jeff Fettig of Whirlpool: “Whirlpool Corp. believes strongly in an open and inclusive culture that respects people of all races and backgrounds. Our company has long fostered an environment of acceptance and tolerance in the workplace.”

Michael Polk of Newell Brands: “With a [U.S.] manufacturing footprint of more than 60 factories and 15,000 employees (and counting), it is in our best interests to have a voice in the conversations that can influence the environment in which we work....For its part, Newell Brands has always been and will always be committed to diversity and inclusion in every aspect of our business.”

Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup: Campbell has long held the belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to the success of our business and our culture. Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is unwavering, and we will remain active champions for these efforts.”

Alex Gorsky of Johnson & Johnson: “If we aren’t in the room advocating for global health as a top priority, if we aren’t there standing up for our belief in diversity and inclusion, or if we fail to speak out when the situation demands it, then we have abdicated our Credo responsibility.”

Andrew Liveris of Dow Chemical: “Dow will continue to work to strengthen the social and economic fabric of the communities where it operates – including supporting policies that help create employment opportunities in manufacturing and rebuild the American workforce.”

Inge Thulin of 3M: “Sustainability, diversity and inclusion are my personal values and also fundamental to the 3M Vision….I believe [President Trump’s] initiative is no longer an effective vehicle for 3M to advance these goals. At 3M, we will continue to champion an environment that supports sustainability, diversity and inclusion. I am committed to building a company that improves lives in every corner of the world.”

Notice a common theme?

What It Means for Business — and Procurement

Of course, what President Trump perhaps could not grasp was that the majority of his council members are beholden to a specific group of people that he’s never had to be as showrunner of the privately held Trump Organization — shareholders.

By extension, shareholders are happiest when profits are up, and for that to happen, a business must continuously and doggedly foster their customer base. That is something that may begin to quickly slide off the rails if customers perceive major U.S. companies siding with words or sentiments that have “PR Nightmare” written all over them.

In an excellent article shortly after the inauguration earlier this year, Spend Matters Editor at large Sydney Lazarus reported that “as a trend, CSR [corporate social responsibility] is here to stay. Consumers are becoming more aware of the environmental and social impact of their favorite brands, and business schools now offer classes on sustainability.”

So what does this new wave of CSR in the Trump era mean for procurement organizations in the current political environment — if anything?

  • Know your customer base and know your stakeholders, and make sure your actions tick off as few people as possible. Our colleague Peter Smith of Spend Matters UK/Europe once said that "the biggest single measure of success is [whether] your senior stakeholders think procurement is doing a great job." He was talking about procurement centralization, but stakeholder buy-in is just as crucial when you're considering a CSR initiative.
  • A tweet, once it's out on the internet, cannot be retracted. Even if you occupy a junior position in your procurement organization, a social media misstep runs the risk (however small) of affecting your company.
  • Think of these fraught political times as an opportunity to take a stand and connect with your customer base. This applies to customers from across the political spectrum.

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