For a candidate who touts his business acumen as a top qualification for president, Donald Trump sure does alienate a lot of business leaders.
Seventh Generation CEO John Replogle told The Huffington Post Friday that the company is sitting on the sidelines of the presidential race for now. But were Trump to actually make it to the Oval Office, things could be different.
“Donald Trump is a candidate, he’s not an elected official at this stage,” said Replogle, whose Vermont-based company produces eco-conscious home goods. “We believe in the right of free speech, even if it is full of divisive rhetoric and partisanship.”
“I wish the rhetoric, for many people, was less damaging and hateful,” he said. “At this point, he has a right as a citizen to free speech. We may differ on that, but frankly there’s no action we can take against it at this stage.”
But, Replogle added, “Were Donald Trump to be an elected official and this were to continue, I think we’d be very active in trying to make sure any policy [he passed] really represented all people in the U.S., not discriminating against anyone.”
Seventh Generation joined the legion of companies earlier this year to protest North Carolina’s so-called “bathroom law,” widely seen as a bigoted attack on transgender rights. The company refused to expand its business in the state unless the legislation is repealed.
Despite that clear line in the sand, Seventh Generation employees haven’t been too political with their money in 2016. Of the meager $2,150 donated by employees to political campaigns this year, $1,900 went to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid. The other $250 went to Erin Schrode, the 25-year-old California Democrat making a historic congressional run.
Of the growing list of companies taking stands against Trump, most did so by withholding support from the Republican National Convention, where Seventh Generation played no part. The privately held company, though small, earned more than $300 million in annual retail sales as of 2014, a figure slated to grow by about 20 percent per year. That doesn’t equate to the political clout wielded by, for example, Apple, but it’s something.
Replogle pointed to his company’s actions in North Carolina as proof it was ready to take action against legislation or other forms of policy deemed discriminatory.
Trump, officially nominated last week as the Republican Party’s candidate for president, has repeatedly called for a ban on Muslim immigrants entering the country, attacked women and minorities with overtly misogynistic and racist statements, and given tacit winks to white supremacists who target Jews and other groups for vicious harassment.
Seventh Generation is far from alone in voicing its hesitations about Trump, the reality TV star whose candidacy has been frequently called a threat to American democracy. Apple refused to contribute funds or resources to last week’s Republican National Convention, where Trump was formally nominated. Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said Trump’s nativist policies are “on the wrong side of history.” BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti turned down a lucrative advertising deal with the convention. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff a famed social activist who championed the fight in North Carolina reluctantly came out against Trump, though he prefers to focus on why he supports Trump’s opponent, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Taking a stance against a candidate, even one as bombastic and controversial as Trump, comes with serious risks, and not just fear of reprisal from an unfriendly White House if Trump were to win in November.
“What happens when you write off that share of the market?” Alyssa Katz, author of The Influence Machine: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Corporate Capture of American Life, told HuffPost in May of Trump’s army of supporters. “It is a risk to the business.”
But for some companies, Trump’s simply gone too far.
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.
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