Editor’s Note

Business monthly (Egypt) - - INSIDE -

Any­one who checked their Face­book or Twit­ter feed in the last few days of Jan­uary un­doubt­edly no­ticed the trend­ing hash­tag #DeleteUber. The global ride-hail­ing com­pany is no stranger to PR firestorms. Uber has suc­cess­fully swept into new mar­kets all over the world in re­cent years, up­set­ting lo­cal taxi driv­ers and some gov­ern­ments in the process. But this time, the tech dar­ling has un­wit­tingly been caught in a po­lit­i­cal firestorm in its own back­yard. The back­lash was sparked af­ter Uber low­ered prices dur­ing a boy­cott of New York taxi driv­ers protest­ing U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s con­tro­ver­sial im­mi­gra­tion ban. Uber CEO Travis Kalan­ick in­sisted the move wasn’t an at­tempt to profit from the protests, pub­licly de­cry­ing the pres­i­dent’s or­der and even set­ting up a $3-bil­lion fund to help af­fected driv­ers— but the dam­age was done. So many an­gry cus­tomers asked to can­cel their ac­counts that Uber had to set up an au­to­mated sys­tem to han­dle the vol­ume.

Once, com­pa­nies that knew what was good for them sim­ply stayed out of the po­lit­i­cal fray—at least pub­licly. Af­ter all, what’s to be gained from a cor­po­ra­tion tak­ing a stand that in­evitably ei­ther in­fu­ri­ates much of its cus­tomer base or the gov­ern­ment that reg­u­lates and taxes it? In the days af­ter Pres­i­dent Trump’s Jan. 27 ex­ec­u­tive or­der clos­ing U.S. bor­ders to refugees and im­mi­grants from seven pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim coun­tries, calls flew back and forth be­tween Amer­ica’s top CEOs about how to re­spond to the or­der, re­ported The New York Times. Tech ex­ec­u­tives in par­tic­u­lar loudly as­sailed the ban. Mi­crosoft, Ama­zon, Ex­pe­dia and Ap­ple, among oth­ers, stressed that Sil­i­con Val­ley is and al­ways has been de­pen­dent on im­mi­grant la­bor, like most other Amer­i­can in­dus­tries. The re­sponse from older, more tra­di­tional sec­tors was more mixed, with Chevron and Wal­mart is­su­ing cir­cum­spect state­ments like: “We’re closely mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion,” while all the big tele­coms sim­ply said “No com­ment.” But there were a num­ber of no­table ex­cep­tions: Such cor­po­rate es­tab­lish­ment main­stays as Coca-Cola, Ford and Nike all pub­licly op­posed the pres­i­dent’s or­der. Even Gold­man Sachs, the in­vest­ment bank from which Trump tapped sev­eral of his top aides, has come out against it.

What’s clear is that stay­ing neu­tral isn’t as sim­ple as it used to be. Multi­na­tional com­pa­nies now op­er­ate in a glob­al­ized re­al­ity in which per­cep­tions—good or bad—can spread like wild­fire via the in­ter­net. Last fall, John Chip­man, head of the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute for Strate­gic Stud­ies, floated the no­tion that to­day “ev­ery com­pany needs a for­eign pol­icy.” In the fu­ture, busi­nesses may also have to think about hav­ing a moral pol­icy, too.

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