The topic of immigration proved to be a hot-button issue in early 2017 when protests broke out at airports across the country decrying the Muslim Ban. This week, the immigration policy has once again dominated the media and divided the country as stories and images of families being separated at the U.S.-Mexico border surfaced. However, despite the controversy, brands were prepared to take a vocal stand and support the #FamiliesBelongTogether outcry in a variety of ways that align with their company values and missions:

  • Rescinding services: Multiple airlines including Frontier, United and American Airlines have requested the government stop using their services to fly migrant children who have been separated from their families. American shared the following statement on Twitter: “The family separation process that has been widely publicized is not at all aligned with the values of American Airlines — we bring families together, not apart.” Others made similar statements which emphasized how the policy conflicts with brands’ mission and values.
  • CEOs speak out: Dozens of CEOs from major brands including Goldman Sachs, Apple, Airbnb, Chobani and Cisco took to Twitter to condemn the policy. Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO of Chobani and an immigrant himself, tweeted that, “Separating a child from a mother or father is not political. It is inhumane. It is against everything this country stands for.” Jeff Lawson, CEO of Twilio urged others to speak up saying, “As a tech leader and public CEO, I’m often advised to stay apolitical. But this isn’t politics, I believe this is a matter of objective right and wrong. Staying silent doesn’t feel like leadership to me. I encourage other leaders to consider the cost of silence.”
  • Empowering employees: Eileen Fisher encouraged its employees to honor World Refugee Day on June 20 by giving everyone at the company an hour off to call their legislators and show support for the human rights crisis surrounding immigration. The brand also shared its support on Instagram stating that they have made a $100,000 donation to the ACLU and encouraged consumers to do the same.
  • Inviting consumers to make an impact: Clothing brand Mara Hoffman engaged consumers with an email announcement stating it will donate 100 percent of its online sales (up to $10,000) to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services. The email also provided readers with additional initiatives they can get involved in.

Since the start of the “zero tolerance” policy, 2,342 children have been separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border – a statistic that only recently infiltrated the news. And yet, brands were quick to act. While this ongoing topic has been highly politicized, many brands are now addressing it as a humanitarian issue – using their Purpose as guidance for when and how to engage on this divisive topic. Brands that reflect on their values, communicate with engaged employees and consumers and have executive buy-in will be prepared to take a stand and better equipped to face inevitable backlash.