An unholy public row has broken out over Microsoft’s diversity policy. Former Dallas Cowboy, Pastor Ken Hutcherson, claims to have cut a deal with Microsoft two years ago agreeing that MS should switch from supporting local gay rights legislation in Washington state to a neutral position. Apparently, under pressure from employees, Microsoft switched back again from neutral to supporting reform and is was this that unleashed the Pastor’s wrath at the recent Microsoft AGM. In a recent interview with Daily Telegraph he said:
” Microsoft stepped out of their four walls into my world so that gives me the right to step out of my world into their world. …….They tried to turn their policy into state policy, making their policy something I had to submit to. And my playbook [the bible] tells me you don’t submit to sin.”
Hutcherson, who runs Redmond based Antioch Bible Church, has vowed to lead a takeover of Microsoft by asking his followers to buy up shares and so change the company’s ‘homosexual agenda’.
“I don’t care how big Microsoft is,” he said. “They are nothing but a feather in the wind of God. America basically got started with a tea party and Goliath, if I’m not mistaken, got taken down by David, who believed in the same cause I believe in. “I’m going to go after the new Goliath with one little rock called a share and I’m going to make them tremble before we get through. I consider myself a warrior for Christ. Microsoft don’t scare me. I got God with me.”
It is quite common these days for social activists to buy small holdings in a target company and use the AGM to introduce minority resolutions to pressure for better CSR performance. It is part PR, part shareholder democracy in action with generally mixed results. But Hutcherson’s actions remind us that today pressure can come from any point along the political spectrum. It is crucial, therefore, to have a well defined CSR strategy outlined up front so to anticipate legitimate and material stakeholder demands and to avoid trying to react later to pressure on the hoof. This whole affair made me think again about Hugh McLeod’s porous corporate membrane (hat tip James Governor) where he talks about the dangers of the company being isolated behind the membrane unconnected to the external conversation. Arguably, membrane or not, the company also needs to clearly understand which conversations it really should have and want to have.
To their great credit Microsoft seems to be doing the right thing here to support the legislation and their employee’s expressed interests. Certainly Hutcherson did not go unchecked at the AGM. You can watch the company AGM video here. If you cue up to the 51:40 mark you can watch a question from another shareholder calling on MS to oppose Hutcherson and the company response. It will be interesting to see how this campaign shapes up. The good pastor promises to come back in force at Microsoft’s next AGM.
You can watch the full Daily Telegrah interview with Hutcherson here:
You can watch Pastor Hutcherson’s actual representation at the recent Microsoft AGM here: