As the leader of a company that makes euphoric ice cream, I sometimes feel a bit more Willy Wonka than your average CEO. We play with our food. We wear a lot of tie dye. Our board is led by activists, most of whom have been arrested sticking up for something they believe in. And we offer yoga classes weekly at our office.
But don’t let our hippie roots or quirky culture fool you. Our business started 39 years ago with one ice cream shop in a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont. Today, in partnership with our parent company Unilever, we are a global, multicultural, multinational company doing business in almost 40 countries around the world. This didn’t happen by accident. It’s the result of a committed global team of business women and men who have taken a small American company to the four corners of the earth. A strong focus on innovation across all aspects of our business, from our products to our social mission, is the key to our sustained success. The fuel that drives that innovation is our commitment to create diverse teams that value and foster differences of opinion, points of view, and celebrates different life experiences. This commitment to diversity and inclusivity is not just the secret behind our company’s success it is the foundation of our nation’s success.
It goes without saying that we all want to live and work in safe and secure communities. These are uncertain times that pose new risks for all of us, both at home and abroad. The problems we face as a free society are complicated and I don’t pretend to have the answers. However, I do know that banning people from predominantly Muslim countries, including refugees from war, is not the path to security. If anything, it undermines our moral authority as the leader of the free world. It erodes our reputation as a country committed to liberty and justice for all. And it robs our companies, universities, and hospitals from the innovators and job creators that will continue to make America’s economy the envy of the world.
Given the president’s experience as a CEO, it was alarming that he would slam the front door of our nation on potential employees and employers who sought legal entry into the U.S.
That’s why the Executive Order barring citizens from predominantly Muslim countries is so threatening to our country’s business community and economy at large. Given the president’s experience as a CEO, it was alarming that he would slam the front door of our nation on potential employees and employers who sought legal entry into the U.S. If I indiscriminately stopped hiring people simply because they came from a particular place, I’d be putting my global business at a competitive disadvantage. Yet that’s exactly what this order would do to our country and our economy.
More meaningfully, the proposed ban is a direct assault on our country’s values of inclusion and respect. I am proud to join other CEOs—from the entertainment, coffee, automotive, tech and gaming industries, to name a few—in denouncing religious discrimination under any guise. As business leaders we have the right and the responsibility to speak out against injustice and to create a more dynamic and inclusive economy.
I am an optimist at heart. I am encouraged by the growing list of companies and CEOs who’ve spoken out to defend the values on which our nation was founded—values that have made our companies the engines that drive the world’s economy. And while we must remain vigilant against those who seek to hurt us, we must not sacrifice our ideals in the process. Our companies and our economy depend on it.