By Benjamin Haslem, Director - Media and Public Affairs, Icon Reputation
Adopting a public corporate position on the looming Voice referendum is the question exercising the minds of many boards.
More than half of the ASX top 20 companies have backed a yes vote. None has advocated voting no. Of those not taking a stand, some have tried to straddle the fence saying that while they support the spirit of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the referendum was a personal choice for voters.
Gaming giant Aristocrat Leisure cited discussions with its internal Indigenous employee advocacy group, which “highlighted the range of sincerely and deeply held views among Indigenous staff and communities”.
So should brands publicly endorse a yes vote and how do they manage any fallout and their reputation once a decision is made?
What is the argument to join the likes of Qantas, Transurban, BHP, Rio Tinto, Newcrest and the big banks in backing a yes vote?
From a reputation and brand image perspective, endorsing a yes vote can demonstrate a company is socially conscious and values inclusivity. This can generate a more positive public perception, attracting customers who align with these values, enhancing the company's overall brand image.
The flip side is potentially losing customers opposed to the Voice - which on current polling could be more than half of Australian adults. Enshrining a Voice to Parliament in the Constitution is a potentially polarising issue. Emotions are running high and for every customer you win, you could easily lose more.