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Can Business Act As a Moral Compass?

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 15/03/2016 Lisa Earle McLeod
PREJUDICE © mstay via Getty Images PREJUDICE

There's a lot of talk about the negative influence of business in politics. We know what happens when business leaders manipulate politicians for their economic gain.
The marriage between business and politics is kind of like that dysfunctional couple we all know and tolerate. They have a long history together, but it's become a marriage of self-interest, with both parties continually trying to get their way. Instead of making each other better, they make each other worse.
I live in Atlanta, the city that in 1966 was dubbed "too busy to hate."
Apparently, now that's changed. It appears that our state legislators now seem to have plenty of time to marginalize people they deem unfit. Earlier this month the Georgia state senate passed a bill that could lead to businesses refusing services to same-sex couples. House Bill 757 would allow business owners to cite religious beliefs in refusing goods or services for a "matrimonial ceremony."
Here's where the business leaders come in. CEO Marc Benioff has threatened to relocate the 15,000 person Salesforce technology conference scheduled for May in Atlanta.
During a recent earnings call Benioff announced that the company would decrease its investments in Georgia following the passing of an anti-LGBT bill that would allow for individuals to use religion as an excuse for discrimination.
Benioff (@Benioff) polled his 206,00 Twitter followers:
Should Salesforce move ‪ ‬‬ if ‪@JoshMcKoon‬‬'s anti gay bill 757 passes the Georgia legislator?‬‬‬‬
Eighty percent of people said Salesforce should divest from Georgia.
The city that once was too busy to hate now looks like George Wallace standing on the courthouse steps, proclaiming "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."
As a 30-year resident of Georgia and a business owner whose business partner and husband is a 4th generation Georgian, all I can say is -REALLY?
Is this what we want our state known for?
Think about history. Can you think of a single incident in which a marginalized group of people fought for their rights, and the people who oppressed them emerged as the heroes?
That never happens. Time and time again - the suffragettes, civil rights, whoever the under represented group is, the people who marginalize them always wind up looking like fools.
Marc Benioff has actually done the Georgia legislators a huge favor. He's given them a business incentive for doing the right thing. Legislators are elected to represent the interests of their state, and a big interest in Georgia is business.
Benioff joins several Georgia businesses, including AT&T (NYSE: T), Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. (NYSE: CCE), The Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD), SunTrust Banks Inc. (NYSE: STI) and United Parcel Service Inc. (NYSE: UPS), who also oppose the bill.
Atlanta is the home of the Martin Luther King Center. It's worth reminding people that as much everyone loves to love Dr. King now, his ideas weren't always so popular.
I travel, a lot, both in the country and out of it. I take pride in telling people I'm from Atlanta, Georgia. I don't want us to be the state that is clinging to old prejudices.
As Benioff tweeted recently: Let's keep Georgia on the right side of history.
Lisa McLeod is the creator of the popular business concept Noble Purpose and author of the bestseller, Selling with Noble Purpose. Her latest book was released Feb. 2016 and is titled Leading with Noble Purpose. She is a sales leadership consultant and keynote speaker. Organizations like Genentech, Google, and Kaiser hire her to help them grow revenue.

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