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Ex-CEOs of McDonald's, Best Buy: Corporations should shun politics, return to customer focus

The growing backlash against woke pressure tactics in the corporate arena "is a good learning experience for companies to relearn that all of your customers have value," said former Best Buy CEO Brad Anderson.

Published: April 25, 2022 7:08pm

Updated: April 26, 2022 10:53pm

The former CEOs of McDonald's and Best Buy are urging corporations to stop focusing on pushing a left, "woke" political agenda and return to serving their customers.

Ed Rensi, former CEO and president of McDonald's, told "Just the News, Not Noise" TV show co-hosts John Solomon and Amanda Head on Friday that the shift to the left in boardrooms did not happen overnight.

"I think this really started with the [BLM] movement, with the [George] Floyd murder," said Rensi, executive chairman of the Boardroom Initiative, which comprises three pro-free enterprise advocacy groups: the Job Creators Network, the Free Enterprise Group, and Second Vote.

"And I think there's been a lot of bullying going on," he said, "and corporations are saying, 'Oh, wait a minute, we don't want to get in that trap. So we got to do something.'"

The left's drive to extend its influence into corporate boardrooms resulted in the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) effort, a rating system investors use to measure a company's advancement of policies designed to address climate change, increase board diversity, and support a progressive "social justice" agenda.

"[N]ow all of a sudden, insurance companies are going to rate corporations on their ESG performance?" Rensi said. "That's not their job. Their job is to rate these companies on performance and provide for risk mitigation."

Board members are supposed to provide oversight, ensure the law is followed, and "do the audits the way they're supposed to — that all sales and revenues are reported properly," he said. "Their duty is to make sure that the business is governed properly. It is not their business as board members to get down into the weeds of social intervention or political landscaping."

Many board members are now afraid of being "criticized for not being and behaving in a certain fashion," according to Rensi. "And that's tragic, because most of these board members are outstanding, they care about the company, they care about the shareholders. And all of a sudden, they've got this sharp spear pointed at them, and they're starting to behave badly. And I think Disney is a classic example of how bad it can get and how fast it can go bad."

On Monday, former CEO of Best Buy Brad Anderson told "Just the News, Not Noise" that companies and their boards are now facing countervailing pressure from the right, after they responded to the initial pressure from the left.

"I think it's all the threats that have been coming from one side," Anderson said. "And companies and boards are not good at dealing with angry people, either in terms of employees, or angry people in terms of customers. And all of that — you were in danger of losing some of your employees and some of your customers, if you didn't correspond with the values of the left, and the right really was not proactive.

"Now that the right is proactive it's going to put boards in a terribly difficult position because they're getting pressure from both sides. But they're going to have to adapt in a more neutral fashion, I think, if companies are not going to harm themselves like they've been doing."

Anderson, who is executive chairman of the board for Job Creators Network, added that companies should return to serving their customers and not political interests.

"I think I'd start with the fact that we serve — for any company, certainly true of Best Buy — we serve an enormous range of people. And our job is to serve them, not us. And that means on their terms, not our terms."

When Anderson was CEO of Best Buy, the company focused on "customer-centricity," he recalled, "which is trying to figure out how our diverse customers — what they wanted from us, and then see if we could meet it, as opposed to transplant our values on top of the customer."

The customer backlash against woke pressure tactics in the corporate arena "is a good learning experience for companies to relearn that all of your customers have value," Anderson remarked. "And you've got to be very careful about what you do, that it doesn't step on their interests, right or left."

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