Image courtesy of Phillip Pessar via Flickr

October 8, 2019; New York Times

In February of 2018, we wrote about Dick’s Sporting Goods, which prior to that moment had been a little far afield of our “beat.”  But as we wrote then, “corporate social responsibility is taking a very different and more activist form these days, causing corporations to weigh in on social issues even when it may create a backlash.”

Early last year, after the Parkland school shooting, Edward Stack, the CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods, announced that his stores would voluntarily end sales of all assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines. These changes, Stack said, would be permanent.

At the time, Stack disclosed that one of Dick’s stores had sold Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz a gun in November, though not one that was not used in the school shooting. “But it came to us that we could have been a part of this story,” he said. “We don’t want to be a part of this any longer.”

Stack has gone on to be an active advocate for gun control measures and a model of sorts for corporate activism. He made headlines again this past weekend when, in an interview with CBS News, he said his company destroyed $5 million worth of assault rifles, converting them into scrap metal.

Stack explained why this action was taken instead of simply returning the firearms to the manufacturers, which would have limited the company’s financial loss.

“I said, ‘You know what? If we really think these things should be off the street, then we need to destroy them,’” he told CBS News. The story is moving, perhaps because Stack so clearly put his money where his mouth is—and he did originally experience some business decline, which is now beginning to reverse itself.

The story about destroying the guns is also in Stack’s book, which went on sale yesterday and may be instructive in terms of what creates a corporate activist. The title is, It’s How We Play the Game: Build a Business. Take a Stand. Make a Difference.—Ruth McCambridge