Article by Sneha Singh

On February 5th, an unusual trend was witnessed online, Pakistani outlets of famous international brands such as South Korean automobile manufacturer Hyundai, Pizza Hut, KFC, Kia spoke out in favour ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’.

The posts drew massive backlash on social media sites such as Twitter and Instagram in India. #BoycottKFC, #BoycottPizzaHut, #BoycottKia was trending on social media platforms. Many even demanded public to boycott these brands. Users pointed out as to how these companies could speak against India especially when they raked in millions here.

Almost all Indian outlets of the brands that were dragged in this controversy were forced to apologise.

We regret, and apologies for the unsolicited social media post published on Domino’s social media handles outside the country.

Domino’s India

Meanwhile other brands also assured to be apolitical in their public statements.

Studies indicate that corporate firms often indulge in social activism in a bid to overhaul public policy results in their favour. It not only make their brand appealing to their target audience but also attract future employees who can identify with their social stance. Many believe international companies can attract their domestic clients via their stand on a local subject.

What’s important to note however is that ‘Corporate Activism’ is not ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’. Corporate Activism refers to stance a company takes over a subject, while CSR refers to public welfare projects undertaken by the company

It is not the first time that many prominent businesses have taken a stand over a political issue. Remember, companies such as Amazon, Apple, Coca-Cola, Facebook, Nike, and Uber in the USA have backed ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement and have pledged racial equality.

Experts are of the opinion that customers want to understand what their brands think. This challenges the brands to keep a tab on their narrative and be proactive to carve through the noise with accountability. However this may not come easy, taking a public stand on controversial topics can cost the company millions, and the management will have to make an informed choice on these matters.

Corporate activism is fruitful when the purpose is to raise voice and genuinely change the world for good. Take issues such as racial discrimination or criminal justice reform for instance.

However, brands will have to be discreet and reconsider their goals especially when it comes to interests of a country, religion, or community.

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