Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Photo: Anthony Weller/View Pictures/UIG via Getty Images

In response to political ethics scandals and the #MeToo movement — both turbocharged by social and traditional media — the business world is recognizing how toxic leadership and culture can threaten a company’s image, profits and long-term survival. More “enlightened” CEOs are taking a stand on issues like immigration and more boards are holding executives accountable for ethical organizational culture.

Why it matters: Corporate boards and executives are taking a broader view of their key stakeholders — not just the vaunted shareholder but also their employees and customers.

Companies have had to follow through on their ethical commitments in a glaring spotlight:

  • After Trump’s comments about the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Merck CEO Ken Frazier led a mass exodus from the president’s corporate advisory councils. Apple’s Tim Cook, Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein, Unilever’s Paul Polman and other CEOs also weighed in.
  • The rise of the #MeToo movement in late 2017, following the Harvey Weinstein exposé, prompted a new awareness of CEOs' pervasive influence on company culture, seen also in the departure of Steve Wynn from Wynn Resorts and the subsequent restructuring of its board.
  • Intel, Rambus, Paramount TV, Texas Instruments and Papa John’s have all recently fired CEOs or chairmen over “code of conduct” violations, a sign that boardrooms are indeed taking these issues more seriously.
  • After having fired Roseanne from her hit namesake TV show in May, Disney fired the director James Gunn last weekend over years-old but recently unearthed offensive tweets, demonstrating that CEOs and boards must respond swiftly to stay in sync with their customers and public opinion.

Where it stands: Integrity programs are becoming more integrated into performance management, especially now that toxic leaders and their cultures have become too hard to keep in the shadows. Boards increasingly want reporting from C-suite officers who oversee ethics, compliance, risk and corporate responsibility. Likewise, companies are creating cross-disciplinary teams to deal with these issues and the reputation risks they pose, which have been dramatically amplified by social media.

What to watch: The hardest work will involve bringing these ethics standards and performance metrics into the political realm, by shifting the stakeholder focus from lobbyists and donors back to citizens and the national interest.

Andrea Bonime-Blanc is the founder and CEO of GEC Risk Advisory.

Go deeper

Journalism enters dangerous new era

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Capitol attack on Jan. 6 resulted in at least nine physical assaults against journalists and at least five arrests, per the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker's top editor.

Why it matters: President Trump's harsh rhetoric towards the press has empowered leaders abroad and locally in the U.S. to continue to attack press that they don't like.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

The beginning of the beginning for Biden's climate push

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Joe Biden's inauguration and the days right after will bring a rat-tat-tat burst of climate policy moves, but keep this in mind amid the splashy pledges: pushing through most of his agenda will be a long, uncertain slog.

Why it matters: Biden's climate plan is far more expansive than anything contemplated under President Obama. But for all the immediate pledges, it will take years to see how far Biden gets.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
4 hours ago - Economy & Business

Biden's inflation danger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President-elect Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal has economists and bullish market analysts revising their U.S. growth expectations higher, predicting a reflation of the economy in 2021 and possibly more booming returns for risk assets.

Yes, but: Others are warning that what's expected to be reflation could actually show up as inflation, a much less welcome phenomenon.