American business is global business. The recent executive order by the president of the United States targeting immigrants has not been popular with business leaders for that very reason.
You would be hard-pressed to think of even a small mom and pop shop that does not have global connectivity. Look at the labels in your clothes. Automobiles made in America? Sometimes — but where do all the parts come from? Pull out your phone that you stare at every minute. The nations involved in producing that technological wonder are many. And we don’t just buy internationally. Annual imports and exports each are more than $2 trillion.
Beyond the international trade of goods and services, the workforce of global companies includes employees of every race, nationality, and faith.
Many businesses are taking the opportunity of the executive order to reaffirm their commitment to diversity. These companies in some cases have not-too-far-removed immigrant founders. Steve Jobs, the famous Apple co-founder, was the child of a Syrian immigrant. A 2016 research report found that more than 40 percent of all CEOs of Fortune 500 companies were either immigrants or their children.
The first business sector to express concern about the ban on immigration from seven countries and enhanced vetting of others was the tech industry. Google, Apple, Twitter and Facebook all chimed in expressing concerns that the new policy would impact their business and harm the diversity that they believe has contributed to their success.
Google was worried about employees who might be traveling abroad and their ability to come back into the U.S. Its leader wrote a memo asking staff members to return home. Some executives expressed concern that there had not been advance warning or vetting of the order that would have allowed them to time to prepare. Others said the new policy simply did not mesh with their company values.
Other industries are now chiming in, including Ford. A statement released by Ford Motor Company CEO Mark Fields and Executive Chairman Bill Ford noted that respect for all people was a core value of the company, which is prideful of its diverse workforce. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein says the policy is not supported by the financial services giant. Further, he, like other executives, promised to help and support employees and their affected families.
Some corporate executives have gone beyond words. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has promised to hire refugees in countries around the world where Starbucks does business and to focus U.S. hiring on those who have supported U.S. troops in other countries. The founder and CEO of Airbnb is offering free housing to refugees and any travelers not allowed to enter the U.S.
Not every business will think that the executive order is a bad idea, but what is remarkable is that so many do and are willing to say so. The outpouring of concern by business leaders speaks to the nature of the global interconnectivity of business today and the global talent pool on which they draw.