With Extinction Rebellion recently declaring that they expect to see a ‘Summer of Disobedience’ from activists who are using all opportunities to draw attention to climate change, we’re asking organisations to consider if they are ready to respond should their organisation be impacted.
Our view isn’t to offer judgement on the right to process, it’s simply to encourage organisations to take a moment to consider if you are ready to respond and consider the different ways at a corporate level activism may impact.
The obvious one is that activists may use your organisation, or hijack an event you are part of, to create a spectacle and draw media attention. We’ve already seen activists’ impact on the Snooker World Championships and Grand National but corporate organisations should consider AGMs, launches, PR stunts, as well as day to day operational activities as potential opportunities.
In particular, organisations who have heavily virtue signalled on their sustainability credentials, as well as organisations who work with partners who may be judged to be responsible for environmental impact, need to really consider if this increases their vulnerability.
Consider your employees
Beyond this impact, organisations need to consider how they might respond if an employee was revealed as taking part in activist activity in their own time, how they would manage social media should it be flooded with activists, or even if activists use your services as part of their activities — meeting up in a hotel to plan activities, taking an uber to get to an event or buying materials that might be used in disruption.
You may be wondering: What should companies do if they are aware that disruption might be being planned, and is it their responsibility to alert the emergency services, or is that seen to be taking sides?
Think it through
Firstly, there is no one-size solution to respond to all of these scenarios — it will be a decision that is personal to the organisation, whether they are a private or publicly owned company, and what their policy and values are in relation to supporting climate change reduction.
Companies who have made heavy virtue signally around sustainability can hardly come down heavily on activists. But is not taking sides and staying silent, actually taking sides with doing nothing, which is what is frustrating activists?
Freedom of speech and the right to protest are heavily built into the social fabric of the UK; but, when the freedom to protest takes away the freedom of others to go about their lives, policy can be very tricky to navigate.
Understanding the legal basis for responding to some of these issues will also help organisations. Activists staging a protest in a private location, such as a head office, hotel, or retail store, becomes a police matter, whereas the action of an employee in their own free time is a matter for employment law.
Leopard Co’s advice
Our recommendation is that all organisations take a moment to scenario plan, ensure policies are sense checked against scenarios and measures are put in place to ensure there is a clear decision tree, together with internal communications and awareness so organisations are ready to respond such an activist issue surface.
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