Deadline Detroit: Matthew Roling on apparent good deeds by big businesses

When the Detroit Regional Chamber convenes its Covid-delayed Mackinac Policy Conference later this month, it will require attendees to produce proof of vaccination to register. The usual suspects are balking, but the Chamber is standing firm. Its CEO, Sandy Baruah, had a kidney transplant in 2019, and is no doubt on anti-rejection drugs, i.e. immunosuppressants. He probably has a dim view of the trust-me-I-have-natural-immunity sermon preached by Covid survivors. Corporations like these – large, multinational, customer-facing – have advocated for a variety of social causes that some conservatives have dug in their heels on. Same-sex marriage and civil rights for LGBT individuals are only one example. Climate change and environmental impact are driving the auto industry in the direction of electric vehicles and renewable energy. Expect worker safety and security to be a higher priority, not only in company policy, but in their lobbying, too; tax-supported universal preschool isn’t just good for children, but for working parents. And good talent is hard enough to come by as it is. But Matthew Roling, an instructor at Wayne State University’s Mike Ilitch School of Business, warns the rest of us not to get too complacent with these apparent good deeds. “Businesses never do things for altruistic reasons,” Roling said. “It just so happens that the intersection of customers and talent align themselves (with business’ bottom line). Because the moment those issues diverge, they won’t be there to save us.”

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