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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

The biggest headline from Biden's town hall

President Biden greets attendees during a commercial break in Baltimore last night. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

What matters from President Biden's town hall with CNN's Anderson Cooper at Baltimore Center Stage on Thursday, via Axios night owl Hans Nichols:

The biggest headline: Biden is jettisoning the corporate tax increases that White House officials have insisted, for the past 10 months, are wildly popular across the country. He admitted he doesn't have the votes.

Trump, your 2024 GOP nominee

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Former President Trump is telling most anyone who'll listen he will run again in 2024 — and poll after poll shows the vast majority of Republicans would gladly cheer him on and vote for him. 

Why it matters: Trump is the heart, soul and undisputed leader of the Republican Party and will easily win the nomination if he wants it, the polls make unmistakably clear.

Ina Fried, author of Login
1 hour ago - Technology
Column / Signal Boost

How smartphone cameras became the best cameras

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

For years, the smartphone has been the most convenient camera, and in recent years it has also become the easiest and most versatile camera. But this year's high-end smartphones have taken things to a new level — capturing images that would be either tough or impossible even with a high-end digital camera.

Between the lines: Traditional cameras have the advantage of bigger sensors and better lenses, but smartphone cameras are rivaling and even surpassing them by tapping computational power.