by Kevin Coupe

Axios had an excellent piece by Mile Allen the other day in which he wrote about how, as tumultuous as American politics seems to be these days, culture wars also are breaking out in corporate America, and “many CEOs and businesses are grossly unprepared.”

Here’s how he frames the issue:

“The war gets ignited by employees, shareholders, customers and social media. The new, high-stakes collisions CEOs are getting pulled into include immigration, climate change, diversity and inclusiveness, and whether their ads run on controversial websites.

“And the wave of sexual-harassment scandals shows that companies have crime in their workplace.

“A behind-the-scenes adviser to some of the world's largest corporations told me: ‘The amount of time that these companies now have to spend on non-market [non-revenue] issues has increased exponentially.’

“Some of the newer topics, like climate change, affect both a corporation's culture and bottom line.”

It matters, Allen writes, because to a new generation of social media-savvy consumers, “corporate reputation and corporate image matter as much (sometimes more) than the delivery of your product or service.”

And the problem he suggests, often is that “most big companies are run by straight, white men who are unaccustomed to navigating a fast-changing America.”

I think Allen gets it mostly right - that business leaders have no choice but to pay attention to the bigger picture to a greater extent than ever before, and focus on how their stories are told to customers, employees and business partners. It no longer is a matter of simple commerce, but rather a far more complex maze of competing constituencies that these leaders must navigate … with Eyes Open.