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What pressures might social activism put on trucking?

What pressures might social activism put on trucking?

A lot of folks might think that the trucking industry flies under the radar when it comes to the vagaries of “social activism,” which is a term encompassing a broad swath of issues from environmentalism to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights.

Here’s the thing, though: such “activism” is a huge deal among a majority of Millennials, the very folks trucking needs to recruit into its ranks to replace workers departing due to retirement and other issues.

And if a new study is any guide, this “pressure” on all manner of companies – not just motor carriers and logistics providers – to actively engage in different forms of social activism is going to be largely internally generated.

Now that study – compiled by the Public Affairs Council (PAC) and entitled Taking a Stand: How Corporations Speak Out on Social Issues – is based on a very small sample of public and private companies: just 92 to be exact, with nearly two-thirds (64%) publicly traded firms. The bulk of those (34%) are from the manufacturing sector, with just 2% involved in transportation, according to PAC’s data.

However, though 34% of the firms that answered this survey are in the manufacturing sector, 20% of that group is made up of food and beverage companies, with 13% involved with motor vehicle production and parts – both of which are entwined heavily with trucking and logistics.

On top of that, some 85% of the companies in this survey are U.S.-based with more than a third (34%) posting revenue exceeding $15 billion a year.

Thus the results of this survey are worth pondering by trucking executives if only to gain some insight as to where such social activist “pressure” might originate from and where it could be applied in the freight world:

  • Over the last three years, 60% of those companies polled experienced rising stakeholder pressure to speak out on social issues such as discrimination, sustainability, education and human rights.
  • None of the respondents reported that such pressure decreased in any way, with 74% noting that expect the “pressure” to get involved in social issues to increase over the next three years.
  • Which “stakeholders” push the most for involvement in “social activism”? Believe it or not senior management tops the list at 78%, followed by employees at 70% and then customers at 51%.
  • Near the bottom of the “stakeholder” pressure list are advocacy groups (39%), political leaders (20%), and the news media (11%).
  • The most common strategies used by companies in their “social issue advocacy” efforts, according to PAC, are: joining a coalition; lobbying at the state/local level; distributing a press release or public statement; lobbying at the federal level; signing a petition; publishing a formal policy position or conduct media interviews.

The reason that this whole topic of “social activism” matters to trucking is that the environment and “sustainability” are far and away the top issues cited by large and small corporations alike.

For starters, the top social issues cited by companies with $15 billion or larger annual revenues are: the environment and sustainability (85%), ending discrimination/restrictions on sexual orientation (82%) and gender (73%).

For smaller firms, the environment and sustainability (56%) remains on top, but efforts to relieve hunger and improve food security came in second (50%) with ending discrimination/restrictions based on race (44%) third.

Think about it: the demonstrated desire by the general public to deliver better vehicle fuel economy or provide more “sustainable” goods as way to be “greener” are going to be tenets hewed to by the bulk of Millennials – again, the very folks who be filling out trucking’s ranks over the next several years in ever increasing numbers.

Something to think about, for sure.

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