Activist CEOs? Meet some of the country's most politically active business leaders

Over the course of the past few years, Salesforce co-CEO Marc Benioff has criticized a law that he said discriminated against LGBT people; bickered with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey about who was doing more to address homelessness and stopped selling things like bump stocks on its e-commerce platform.

Benioff maintains that he’s not trying to be an activist CEO, but that he’s merely trying to fight battles on behalf of his employees.

“I didn’t become this activist CEO,” Benioff told Fortune. “I got pushed by my employees into it. My job as CEO is to listen deeply to my employees and customers and to respond to them effectively.”

Benioff isn’t the only chief executive to wade into social and political strifes recently. He joins a handful of business leaders who sit at the helm of some of the world’s biggest companies in making a habit of speaking out -- and fighting against -- about what they perceive as injustices.

FOX Business takes a closer look at some of the more-prominent so-called activist CEOs who are getting involved in contentious public debates ranging from laws affecting transgender people in North Carolina to climate change.

PayPal CEO Dan Schulman: Under Schulman’s leadership, PayPal in 2016 canceled plans to open a global operations center in Charlotte, North Carolina and invest $3.6 million in the area after the state legislature passed a controversial law targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens, according to Reuters.

PayPal was the first major business to protest North Carolina’s law, which required transgender people to use restrooms in many public bathrooms that correlated to their sex at birth.

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein: Although Blankfein stepped down as CEO of Goldman Sachs in 2018, during his tenure at the helm of the bank, he was known for being a vocal LGBT-rights advocate. In 2012, he became a national spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT advocacy group and political lobbying organization in the country.

Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario: Marcario joined the outdoor retailer in 2008 and has taken a markedly political course over the past several years. Patagonia, in the midterm elections, endorsed two candidates: Democrats Rep. Jacky Rosen in Nevada and Sen. Jon Tester in Montana, both of whom won their races, according to Inc.

And, in 2017, Patagonia -- which openly describes itself as an “activist company” -- sued the Trump administration for reducing the size of two national monuments in Utah, including Bear Eyes and Grand Staircase-Escalante. When Trump first announced the news about the monuments, Patagonia wiped its website and replaced it with a stark message: “The President Stole Your Land.”

The company also donated $10 million -- its savings in tax cuts -- to environmental programs.


“Taxes fund our important public services, our first responders and our democratic institutions,” Marcario wrote in a message on LinkedIn. “Taxes protect the most vulnerable in our society, our public lands and other life-giving resources. In spite of this, the Trump administration initiated a corporate tax cut, threatening these services at the expense of our planet.”