During a panel organized by Drexel University, 21 business experts commented on public statements made by FedEx and UPS in reference to the National Rifle Association.
Corporate and Political Activism Real Time Expert Panel, administered by Drexel’s Institute for Strategic Leadership in partnership with the American Marketing Association, is a panel of experts from 39 colleges including the University of Pennsylvania, Oxford, Cornell, Columbia and Princeton.
The panel often looks at public companies that are making political stands and grades them based on their transparency, consistency and several other factors. The panel looked at a back and forth between FedEx and UPS March 2 and discussed what the effects of those incidents will have on the companies’ public perceptions.
In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, companies have been taking political stands. Dick’s Sporting Goods has discontinued selling assault style rifles and high capacity magazines and will stop selling guns to anyone under the age of 21. Over a dozen other companies followed suit and discontinued discounts for NRA members, including Hertz, United and Delta.
These actions led gun-control activists to criticize companies that continue to offer discount to NRA members or work with the NRA in any fashion, FedEx being one of those companies.
FedEx tried to defend its position Feb. 27 to Business Insider by stating that, “the NRA uses UPS and not FedEx” for shipping. This statement was confirmed by the NRA, which indicated that the main shippers for their online store are the United States Postal Service and UPS.
The statement from FedEx caused a reaction from one of its largest competitors, UPS, who told Bloomberg later the same day that while they do offer shipping services, they have no special discount for NRA members, which FedEx does. FedEx stated Feb. 26 that the company will continue to maintain discounts for businesses and consumers who belong to the NRA.
“FedEx remains committed to all our customers and the pricing we provide them independent of their political affiliations and views,” the company said.
The Real Time Expert Poll looked at the statements from both companies and gave FedEx a “C-” and UPS a “B-” for their actions. These poor grades were the result of unclear motivations behind the actions of both companies.
“[There was] no articulation of why they are taking either stand. I’m not sure how it fits their mission,” one of the panelists said, according to a statement from Drexel.
The panelists agreed that both companies handled the situation poorly and that their actions took focus away from gun control, although they were more disappointed in FedEx for not taking a definitive stand on the NRA.
“You’ve got to explain yourself and you’ve got to do it at the right time,” John Paluszek, executive producer of ‘Business in Society’, told Business Insider.
However, not all panelists had entirely negative things to say about FedEx.
“It takes a lot of courage for FedEx is keep political issues out of its decision making,” one of the panelists commented.
“Overall, these expert opinions suggest that the companies’ reactive stances and public sparring are unlikely to win over much of the public,” Daniel Korschun, an associate professor at Drexel’s LeBow College of Business who served as the lead administrator of the poll, said in a statement. “In the end, the greatest beneficiaries may be competitors such as DHL and the U.S. Post Office.”
More information about the Real TIme Expert Poll and a complete list of panelists can be found here.