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 the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

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!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of 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!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of 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!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of 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!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of 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!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of 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!

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

America's CEOs need policies on the coming verdict in the Minneapolis police trial; the human rights dimensions of next year's World Cup in Qatar and Winter Olympics in Beijing; and voting-access bills — all different — moving through statehouses around the country.

Why it matters: As part of a generational change that has left many corporations on the defensive, CEOs are being pressured by younger workers and potential recruits — plus shareholders and customers — to take stands on issues they had always avoided. This includes the divisive issues of race, guns, climate change and LGBTQ rights.

This is partly opportunity — and mostly necessity:

  • People have lost trust in government, the media and other institutions. Employers have a huge opening to fill the vacuum. This year's Edelman Trust Barometer, polling released in January, found that business is the only institution that's now perceived as being ethical and competent enough to solve the world's problems.
  • But companies have little choice: Younger workers and applicants now insist that employers articulate their values. Previous generations were more obsessed with salaries, perks and career paths.
  • The Business Roundtable, an organization of America's top CEOs, last year released a detailed platform on police reform. Josh Bolten, the group's president and CEO, said executives now recognize that painful calls on tough issues are a permanent part of the job: "It's what [they] do."
  • In 2019, the BRT redefined the purpose of a corporation from immediate profitability for shareholders, to a broader lens that includes customers, employers, suppliers and communities.

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld of Yale School of Management, who's in constant communication with the world's top CEOs (he took several calls this week from Augusta), told me several other factors are forcing business leaders to speak up:

  • President Trump took stands on trade, immigration and isolations that are antithetical to the interests of many American business giants: "Businesses now are in a daily state of adolescence — trying to find themselves, because they're not defined by either party."
  • The decoupling of America is bad for business. "CEOs want social harmony," Sonnenfeld told me from a board meeting in Miami's South Beach. "Workers pointing fingers, and angry shareholders, make their jobs harder."
  • CEOs can no longer resort to an avoidance strategy: "The middle ground is no longer feasible for anybody. Silence means acquiescence, which means complicity."

What's next: There's one issue where CEOs still want to defer to Washington — China. Top execs tell me confronting Beijing on human rights is too fraught and costly of an issue for global companies to take the lead.

This story first appeared in a special Megatrends Edition of Axios AM.

Not a valid email format.
Not a valid email format.
Server error. Please try a different email.
Not a valid email format.
Not a valid email format.
Server error. Please try a different email.
Not a valid email format.
Not a valid email format.
Server error. Please try a different email.
Not a valid email format.
Not a valid email format.
Server error. Please try a different email.
Not a valid email format.
Not a valid email format.
Server error. Please try a different email.

Go deeper

McConnell walks back rebuke of corporate action over Ga. voting law

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Washington, D.C., in March. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) softened his disapproval of the corporate backlash against Georgia's new voting law, saying Wednesday that businesses "are certainly entitled to be involved in politics," according to the New York Times.

The state of play: McConnell on Monday said that corporations are better off staying out of politics and claimed the dozens of CEOs and corporations that have spoken out against Georgia's law were "taking cues from the Outrage-Industrial Complex."

Updated 6 hours ago - World

Death toll mounts as fighting between Israel and Hamas intensifies

Palestinian Muslims exchange wishes for Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, near a razed building in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia, on May 13. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

At least 109 Palestinians and seven people in Israel have been killed since recent fighting between Israel's military and Hamas began Monday.

The big picture: Israel began massing troops on its border with Gaza on Thursday, launching attacks from the air and ground as Hamas continued to fire rockets into Israel.

By the numbers: Where the earmarks are wanted

Expand chart
Data: House Committee on Appropriations; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The Dallas-Fort Worth area is being targeted for the largest collective earmark request in the country, according to a detailed breakdown of overall requests released by the House Appropriations Committee.

Why it matters: House appropriators are trying to balance bipartisan momentum for infrastructure investment with "pork-barrel" spending's checkered political history. The data dump is an effort to provide transparency for what are now termed "community project funding" requests.