Forget ‘Why those 7 countries?’ or ‘How can a country built by the sweat of immigrants do this?’: the Trump fatwa against refugees in general and Muslims in particular has seriously offended the American business community – and for all the right reasons.
On the first working day after the President signed the order, the hundreds of thousands who took to the world’s streets were joined in spirit by the corporate realm. Google and Apple complained that the (irrational and hysterical) ban was not in the interests of companies that fished in global talent pools, whilst Microsoft spoke up for its 76 employees who could be stopped from travelling or returning to the US. Ford, whose CEO was fresh from an Oval Office meeting, condemned the measure as ‘against our values’ and Starbucks announced plans to retaliate by recruiting 10,000 migrant baristas worldwide over the next 5 years. Mark Zuckerburg of Facebook spoke for many:
‘We [USA] are a nation of immigrants, and we all benefit when the best and brightest from around the world can live, work and contribute here’.
JP Morgan Chase, Netflix, Nike, Blackberry and the proprietors of both Twitter and the New York Times were quick to denounce the President’s action, as did many others. They included Goldman Sachs, whose alumni make up a significant portion of the Trump team, and Blackrock, the world’s largest private investor, whose CEO had been in line for a top job had President Clinton been at the helm today. The stock markets stuttered in response as businesses, half of them created by immigrants or their children, queued up to comment.
This issue goes further than what’s good for business. When Mark Benioff of Salesforce took to Twitter to quote scripture in opposition to the ban he was well outside the normal comfort zone of the corporate world. However, it’s clear that, in this era of constant scrutiny by Instagram and Twitter, and the softer values of the upcoming Millennial generation, businesses who claim to operate by sound values actually need to demonstrate this every once in a while. In that sense, the immigrant ban is opportune. It allows them to stand together, avoiding the risk of being picked off by sniper fire (to use an unfortunate analogy). Their stance is a statement of values with which the majority of Americans can identify (remember that Trump lost the popular vote) and, of course, companies that had become used to hiring the best talent from wherever in the world they could find it certainly didn’t want to lose that right.
And it wasn’t just in America, either: In Britain the Institute of Directors and the British Chambers of Commerce both joined the chorus. The CEO of Anglo-Dutch Unilever, Paul Polman said on Twitter that the
‘Inherent worth and dignity of every world citizen [is] being challenged in US at the moment’.
With those words he spoke for us all, not only for migrants and justice but for decency, fair play and common sense. These are the values of the best of business.