With emerging societal crises growing in both frequency and severity in today’s divisive social and political climate, brands of every stripe need to be prepared to either take a stand or stand down.

The wrong choice could easily spark a reputational firestorm. Peppercomm – a leading integrated communications and marketing firm – offers a solution.

StandSmart is Peppercomm’s proprietary service to help companies know when to speak out on these controversial issues, when to keep quiet and how to communicate clearly with key stakeholders.

The StandSmart S.T.A.R. analysis offers best practices from Peppercomm based on how brands are reacting in real-world scenarios. Our S.T.A.R. Award honors one organization each month for taking a smart stand.

Recent S.T.A.R. Analyses


While the media – and much of the country – has largely focused on the divisive drama surrounding the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, our Societal Crisis Stress Level gauge hovers between Medium and High as a handful of companies made news for taking a values-based stand. These include:

  • Patagonia’s ongoing suit against the Dept. of the Interior and role in driving voter-awareness.
  • Amazon raising minimum wage for its employees to $15/hour.
  • Levi Strauss & Co. doubling down on efforts to compel employees and customers to vote.



There’s no question about it: the country is now divided along political lines. Levi Strauss & Co. is doubling-down on its left-leaning heritage, seeking to drive young Dems to the polls in record numbers.

Earlier this year, Levi Strauss & Co. was extremely vocal in their opposition to Trump’s planned tariffson EU products because the EU threatened counter tariffs on U.S. goods. Add this to their recent stand on gun control and their history of progressive values, and it’s easy to see that the company’s get-out-the-vote investment is every bit as blue as their legendary denim jeans.

Three weeks ago, the iconic jeans manufacturer joined the national Rock the Vote movement, dedicated to building the political power of young people by encouraging them to become vocal on important issues that impact their generation and – most importantly – to get to the polls to vote.

Last week, Levi Strauss & Co. was at it again, joining the Time to Vote campaign in which companies encourage voter turnout by providing their employees paid time-off to participate in the upcoming election. To that end, the company will allow its workers between three to five hours of paid time off to vote on election day and to volunteer to help register others.

Extending their commitment beyond just their employee base, Levi Strauss & Co. will also conduct voter registration drives in selected retail outlets around the country as well as at music festivals and concerts. By the time of this writing, more than 200 companies have joined the movement, including such notable brands as Patagonia, Walmart and PayPal.


Stand: Does the organization’s response align with its stated corporate purpose?

The answer here is a resounding “yes.” Levi Strauss & Co. has long been at the forefront of such “liberal” movements as employee safety and empowerment and environmental sustainability. This stand is in 100% alignment with the company’s stated values: empathy, originality, integrity and courage. All four are on display here.

Timing: Did the organization respond quickly?

More of a proactive move than a reaction, Levi Strauss & Co.’s decision to lead a “get-out-the-vote” movement is consistent with its “first-mover” stance on a variety of progressive issues, including community engagement, HIV/AIDS employee education, gender equality and others.

Accountability: Did the organization’s top executive respond with a statement or action?

Levi Strauss & Co. gets particularly high marks in this arena, as CEO Chip Bergh penned an op-ed piece in Fortune announcing the company’s commitment to increasing awareness and voter turnout. “As a CEO, if there’s something I can do to ensure our employees get a chance to stand up and be counted, I’m not going to hesitate,” Bergh wrote.

Response: Is the response strong, decisive and actionable?

Yes. Yes. And yes. Do the math: when a company with 10,000-plus employees grants each of them three to five hours of extra paid leave on the same day, that amounts to an enormous impact on the bottom line. And when it spends big dollars on a get-out-the-vote campaign featuring a diverse group of young people heading to the polls backed by the voice of Democratic muse Aretha Franklin, it’s clear what stand Levi Strauss & Co. is taking.