For the CEOs of some of the largest corporations in the U.S., political activism can translate to hefty paychecks.
Numerous companies have attempted to parley political activism into greater profits. Under the “woke capitalism” model, companies attempt to use their media and financial clout to promote progressive causes in the hope that it will translate to a bigger bottom line.
For some companies, this activism has succeeded in boosting sales, but for others forays into divisive political issues have resulted in massive financial losses. However, one group within woke companies always seems to reap rewards from corporate virtue-signaling: the CEOs.
No matter how hard the backlash against corporations that attempt to inject politics into their business model, their CEOs consistently take home massive checks on payday.
Here’s a list of some of the largest paychecks received by CEOs of companies that have engaged in political activism.
Procter and Gamble/Gillette
In 2017, consumer goods giant Procter and Gamble released an ad called “The Talk.” The ad showed African American mothers having conversations with their children about racism, and it was harshly criticized by some as “identity politics pandering.” The ad won an Emmy award.
Gillette, bought by Procter and Gamble in 2005, aired an ad last January addressing sexual harassment and misogyny. The ad, titled “We Believe,” was heavily criticized as pandering to the #MeToo movement. In May, Gillette released another ad of a father showing his transgender son how to shave for the first time.
Gillette reported a $5 billion loss for the first quarter of 2019, but the CEO of Gillette, Gary Coombe, said that the loss of revenue was a “price worth paying.”
Coombe’s boss and CEO of Procter and Gamble, David S. Taylor, made $17,354,256 in 2018.
Nike garnered controversy in September 2018 after it signed former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for an ad campaign for the company. One of Kaepernick’s ads was nominated for an Emmy award. Kaepernick gained notoriety during his NFL career for kneeling in protest during the U.S. national anthem to protest police brutality.
Nike once again faced controversy in July 2019 after it withdrew a line of Betsy Ross flag-themed sneakers after Kaepernick claimed that the flag represented America’s history of slavery. (RELATED: Arizona Drops Nike Investment After Betsy Ross Shoe Is Scrapped)
Mark Parker, the CEO of Nike, received $9,467,460 in compensation last year.
After the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott by police in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2016, the CEO of AT&T, Randall Stephenson, gave a speech to employees in which he said, “Now I’ve got to tell you, I get his anger when somebody responds to the Black Lives protest by saying ‘all lives matter.'” Stephenson added, “Our communities are being destroyed by racial tension.”
Stephenson made $18,844,528 in 2018.
In May 2019, Microsoft announced its plan to include a new feature in Microsoft Word that would underline words that the company deemed insensitive in order to promote gender-inclusive language. For example, if someone typed “police man” into Microsoft Word, the program would underline it and suggest “police officer.” (RELATED: Microsoft Ignored Numerous Cases Of Sexual Harassment, Employees Say)
CEO of Microsoft Satya Nadella received $25,843,263 in compensation in 2018.
In response to the North Carolina Bathroom Law that required patrons of public restrooms to use the restroom that matched their biological gender, the retail giant Target announced in 2016 that it would allow its customers to allow to use the restroom that corresponded to their gender identity.
Target’s CEO, Brian Cornell, made $17,204,069 in 2018.
Disney CEO Bob Iger commented that it would be “very difficult” for Disney to shoot films in Georgia if the state passed an anti-abortion law that would make abortion illegal if a fetal heartbeat could be detected.
Iger made over $60 million in 2018. Iger’s profits could increase dramatically from the stock award he received after Disney’s merger with Fox to nearly $150 million.
Starbucks has a history of social activism. Former CEO Howard Schulz attempted to create a national conversation about racial tensions by encouraging baristas to engage customers in conversations about race in 2015.
After two African Americans were arrested for demanding to use a restroom in a Philadelphia Starbucks, the company closed over 8,000 stores in May 2018 to provide anti-bias training to over 175,000 employees.
In July 2018, Starbucks announced that it would completely eliminate plastic straws from its locations by 2020. It plans to replace plastic straws with paper straws and recyclable lids.
Starbucks’ CEO, Kevin Johnson, received $13,382,480 in compensation in 2018.
Google plans to implement a “respectful code” policy designed to eliminate words and phrases deemed inappropriate by Google. Google intends to eliminate the “master” and “slave” terminology used to refer to relationships between devices, and it will seek to eliminate terms like “whitelist” and “blacklist.” (RELATED: Former Google Engineer Kevin Cernekee Says Google Will Try To Prevent Trump From Being Reelected)
Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, only received a $650,000 salary in 2015, but he received a stock award of $99.8 million. Pichai received an even larger stock award of $198.7 million in 2016.
In February 2019, Facebook blocked articles by the Daily Caller and the American Conservative that questioned the veracity of Jussie Smollett’s claims that he was the victim of a racially-motivated attack. Facebook specifically prevented users from sharing the articles because they went “against our Community Standards.” Smollett was arrested for allegedly filing a false police report. All charges were later dropped on condition of Smollett performing community service.
While Mark Zuckerberg only received a $1 salary in 2018, he collected a total compensation package of $22,554,543.
In 2017, Pepsi aired an ad starring Kylie Jenner that mimicked Black Lives Matter protests. In the ad, Jenner marches with protesters in front of a police line and offers a Pepsi to a police officer in riot gear.
Pepsi’s CEO, Ramon Laguarta, received $9,694,978 in 2018.
Dick’s Sporting Goods
In the wake of the Parkland, Florida shooting in February 2018, Dick’s Sporting Goods announced that it would stop selling assault-style weapons. It also announced that it would no longer sell any type of gun to people under 21 years old.
Edward Stack, CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods, made $9,033,405.
In 2015, Walmart announced that it would stop selling both Confederate flags and assault-style guns after the Charleston Church shooting. After the “Unite the Right” Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon harshly critiqued President Donald Trump’s blamed “many sides” for the outbreak of violence in Charlottesville, and along several other corporate executives stepped down from a position on a presidential advisory council. (RELATED: Walmart’s Corporate Employees Are Set To Walk Out Over Firearm Sales)
In 2018, McMillon made $22,791,276.
Levi Strauss & Co.
Jeans company Levi Strauss & Co. announced in 2018 that it would donate over $1 million to organizations dedicated to tighter gun control laws in the U.S., and it partnered with Michael Bloomberg to create a coalition of corporations to support gun control laws.
CEO Charles Bergh said, “The gun violence epidemic in America has hit a point where something has to be done. It’s inevitable that we’re going to alienate some consumers, but we can no longer sit on the sidelines and remain silent on this issue.”
Bergh received $11,083,338 in compensation in 2018.
The Coca Cola Company
The Coca Cola Company launched an ad campaign in Hungary promoting tolerance of LGBT lifestyles. The ads feature gay and lesbian couples kissing and holding bottle of Coca-Cola. The ads, featuring slogans like “Zero Sugar, Zero Prejudice,” were harshly criticized by the conservative government of Hungary.
James Quincey, CEO of the Coca Cola Company, received a compensation package of $16,384,123.
Netflix posted a thread on Twitter in April 2019 saying that the term “chick flicks” were sexist. Netflix’s chief content officer also said in May that the company would “rethink” its investment in the state of Georgia if it put a “heartbeat bill” into effect.
Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings made $36,080,417 in 2018.
Electronic Arts caused considerable controversy in 2018 when it released Battlefield V. The game, set in World War II, extensively featured women in a frontline combat role. The game also included a woman with a hook for a hand in its trailer. Additionally, EA banned the word “Nazi” from the game’s chat.
The game developer responded to criticism that the game was historically inaccurate by saying that EA would, “always put fun over authentic.” EA’s chief creative officer said, “We stand up for the cause, because I think those people who don’t understand it, well, you have two choices: either accept it or don’t buy the game.”
The CEO of Electronic Arts, Andrew Wilson, received $35,728,764 in 2018.