By: Carol Ring

What a time we live in! From students in Parkland sparking corporate responses to gun control, to a CEO shutting down over 8,000 retail locations at the same time for racial bias training, to an ex FBI Director calling upon a nation to vote for their values, people from all corners are stepping up.

Parkland, Dicks and NRA Sponsorship

When Florida students became victims of another semi-automatic mass shooting many of them chose to stand up for responsible gun control. Their ask includes a ban on high velocity semi-automatic guns, raising the minimum age to purchase guns, and for young people to become more active in the political system to effect change.

Their refusal to play the victim inspired many including Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO, Edward Stack. Two weeks following the shooting, Stack announced that the Fortune 500 company would no longer sell assault style rifles and would not sell any guns to people under the age of 21. In his public statement he said, “We support and respect the Second Amendment, and we recognize and appreciate that the vast majority of gun owners in this country are responsible, law-abiding citizens. But we have to help solve the problem that’s in front of us. Gun violence is an epidemic that’s taking the lives of too many people, including the brightest hope for the future of America – our kids.” Edward Stack stood up.

Other companies jumped on the band wagon, especially those who were offering benefits to members of the National Rifle Association (NRA). In these cases it was less about the CEO and more about the company “spokesperson” making the announcement, based on “feedback from our customers” to sever ties with the NRA. Standing up or PR ploy?

Starbucks bathroom use refusal

On the corner of Spruce and 18th, in an upscale residential Philadelphia neighborhood, two men met at the local Starbucks. While waiting for a third person, one of them asked to use the washroom. Since they had not yet purchased anything their request was denied. Ultimately the police were called and they were arrested for trespassing. They were African American.

Starbucks CEO, Kevin Johnson stood up and responded to the actions of his employees. “These two gentlemen did not deserve what happened, and we are accountable. I am accountable”. He went on to say “I own it. This is a management issue, and I am accountable to ensure we address the policy and the practice and the training that led to this outcome”. How easy would it have been for this CEO to blame the manager and hand out the standard line that this behavior was not consistent with the values of the company. Kevin Johnson is standing up and demonstrating his commitment to the Starbucks culture of creating a welcoming place for all.

A higher loyalty

Fired former FBI Director, James Comey, has hit the PR circuit with the launch of his new book A Higher Loyalty. The title refers to an alleged request by President Trump for Comey to make a pledge of loyalty to the President (versus the people of America). Comey’s personal values clearly include a high level of integrity, respect and honesty. In addition, he is at odds with the current White House administration. “Values matter,” says Comey. “People in this country need to stand up, and go to the voting booth and vote their values. This president does not reflect the values of this country”. Or does he? It’s an interesting call out to the American people to reflect upon the current culture of the nation.

What will you stand up for?

Yes, yes I get it. All three scenarios above come from south of the border. We are quick to declare that our Canadian culture isn’t about the right to carry arms, that we are an inclusive society, and our politics are less about divisiveness and more about caring for each other. And, our media is certainly less sensational.

I beg you to stand up about our country’s culture as well. Each and every one of us has an opportunity to voice what we would like to see in our Canadian Culture. Please take the survey and share with family, friends, and colleagues.

About Carol Ring

Carol Ring is the CEO and Founder of The Culture Connection. Through speaking engagements, workshops and writing, Carol teaches leaders how to develop a strong, vibrant company culture that is vision-guided and values-driven. She offers her “Ignite Your Culture” program to help leaders energize their organization’s values and fuel bottom-line results. Learn more


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