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Behavior Change
Growing Coalition of Companies Reignites Efforts to Get US Voters to the Polls in November

Time to Vote is reigniting its 2018 efforts, building on its past results and working to engage even more employers in the lead-up to the all-too-critical 2020 election — and it’s looking for more businesses to join the cause.

As wunderkind climate activist Greta Thunberg prepared to sail back to Europe in November, after a months-long, action-packed visit to the US, her parting words to us could be summed up in one word: “Vote.”

“Even if the politics needed doesn’t exist today, we still need to use our voices to make sure that the people in power are focused on the right things,” she said. “Because this is a democracy; and in a democracy, people are the ones who run the country. I know it doesn’t seem that way, but if enough people were to decide they have had enough, then that could change everything. So, don’t underestimate that power.”

Voter turnout in the US has been low for decades; the need for more and better engagement of the electorate was never more obvious as after the intensely polarizing 2016 presidential election, in which a mere 55 percent participated. Powerful, purposeful media messaging made a big difference in voter turnout in the recent European elections; so, what will engage US voters?

Having time off work is one thing that could help: Unlike in many other countries, where voting is mandatory — and elections take place on Sundays, for example, so as not to conflict with traditional work schedules — one of the most common reasons people give for not voting in the US is that they’re too busy with the demands of work and life. To address this barrier and increase voter participation, a diverse group of companies, spearheaded by Patagonia, came together in the summer of 2018 to launch the non-partisan Time to Vote (TTV) coalition — committing to ensure that their employees’ work schedules allowed them time to vote in that year's midterm elections. 

And it seemed to have helped: More than half of US eligible voters cast a ballot in the November 2018 midterms — which represents the highest turnout rate for a midterm election in four decades, according to the Pew Research Center.

This year, Time to Vote has reignited its efforts, building on its past results and working to engage even more employers in the lead-up to the all-too-critical 2020 election — and it’s looking for more businesses to join the cause.

Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario says:

“Our democracy simply works better when people go vote. Demonstrating your company’s commitment to voting reinforces the idea that American businesses can protect our democracy. I have been heartened to see business leaders from every corner of the country and across a range of industries prioritizing the health of our democracy, and I look forward to seeing this movement grow.”

The coalition — which is now 350+ companies strong and counting — says its aim is to increase voter participation by enlisting CEOs who inspire and empower a culture of voting, by ensuring their employees have a work schedule that allows them to vote; its goal for 2020 is to grow participation to include more than 1,000 companies.

"Voting is the bedrock of a healthy democracy and a critical form of civic participation,” Mike Masserman, Head of Social Impact at TTV member Lyft, told Sustainable Brands. “It's exciting to see so many companies who are committed to ensuring their employees can take the time they need to vote on or before Election Day, and Lyft is proud to be part of this growing movement."

As Sarah Bonk, founder of Business for America, which is recruiting additional companies to join the coalition, told Sustainable Brands: “More and more, purpose-driven companies are recognizing that that they cannot achieve their ESG goals when our democracy is not functioning well or delivering solutions to voters. As a result, businesses are looking for nonpartisan ways to support the health of democracy while staying away from left-right politics.

“Encouraging their employees and communities to participate more fully in our elections by joining Time to Vote is a simple way any company can support the health of our democracy.”

When asked why some companies may be reluctant to participate, Bonk explained: “Some companies are afraid of appearing partisan, both to the public and to lawmakers who could retaliate. Although Time to Vote was started by Patagonia — a company at the vanguard of corporate political activism — the effort was joined by Walmart in 2018, helping to demonstrate that voter participation never needs to be a partisan issue.

“As more companies join Time to Vote, participation is quickly going to become an expectation," Bonk asserts. "There will soon be a risk in not participating and not proactively supporting your employees’ civic engagement.”