(Bloomberg) -- Bitter battles between Democrats and Republicans are bad for business, a new report says, but there’s little consensus among companies on how to address the problem that they fear won’t change soon.
The political environment is likely to be as tough or tougher for business after the 2024 elections regardless of the victors, according to 70% of top lobbyists and legal officers of more than 100 corporations surveyed by the Conference Board, a nonpartisan think tank.
Given current schisms, each election carries the risk of reversals of public policies and laws, deepening the difficulty for businesses to make long-range plans.
“You can go from ‘Green New Deal’ to Marjorie Taylor Greene,” said Paul Washington, executive director of the Conference Board ESG Center, adding that power can shift quickly from progressives who see climate change as an existential crisis to Republicans like the US representative from Georgia who say there’s no such thing.
Polarization among policymakers was cited as the leading source of political turbulence for businesses across industries by 89% of those surveyed between Oct. 20 and Nov. 29 at the public and private companies, half of which have annual revenues topping $10 billion. Attacks from policymakers on corporations was second, at 75%.
The concerns are real. Members of Congress from both parties have grilled social media and other technology executives over their practices, and lawmakers regularly tout bills that would crack down on specific industries.
Asset managers who made a priority of environmental, social and governance standards have come under attack in many conservative-led states, such as energy-producers Texas and West Virginia, which have blocked firms including BlackRock Inc. from handling some investments.
Leaders of Democratic states are pushing in the opposite direction, seeking more climate-conscious investing. Sharp policy differences among states were cited by 42% of company officials as a major problem with the business climate.
Still, companies could mobilize, if they wished. Getting more people registered to vote and then to actually cast ballots are two actions companies could take to improve the political climate, more than 60% of survey respondents said. Using political action committees to donate to candidates with track records of solving problems was supported by 62%.
Systemic changes like overhauling redistricting, bolstering voting rights or ensuring the reliability and integrity of elections appealed to less than a third of those surveyed. Shutting down or limiting PAC donations drew just 8%.
Despite the widespread agreement about the challenges posed by the polarization, those surveyed were split on how to address it. While 33% said businesses should take a leadership role, 29% think they should be supportive as others take the lead. Improving lives by fostering economic growth while playing a minimal role in politics was preferred by 30%.
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