We speak a lot about Giveback and the Lemonade Foundation, but today, I’d like to spend a minute on why we choose to be vocal on issues we care about – which can be, at times, controversial.
But before I do that, some background:
When Daniel and I founded Lemonade, we wanted to build something that’s more than just financially rewarding. We believe that the modern enterprise has an opportunity to play an active role in society, supporting causes such as civil rights, democracy, and climate change. As large employers, companies like us have a stronger voice than ever before, and the ability to influence policy.
Back in 2015, we decided to join brands like Patagonia, TOMS, and Warby Parker, and incorporate as a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC). Unlike traditional companies, PBCs have two bottom lines: one, optimizing for financial results, and the other for delivering positive impact. Having this structure gives us the foundation needed to balance business decisions – between maximizing shareholder value, and doing good. In addition to being a PBC, we earned the prestigious B-Corp certification which verifies our high standards of accountability, transparency, charitable giving, and sustainability.
So, how has this double bottom line worked thus far?
We chose to focus our activities in three areas: Charitable giving, donating millions of dollars to important causes through the Lemonade Giveback; Taking a stance on important issues to help drive positive change; Investing in climate and social technology through the Lemonade Foundation, with the hope to achieve exponential breakthroughs in those fields.
Corporations have always tried to satisfy the most, and alienate the least, of their customers and employees. This is not surprising. After all, shareholders grant executives the mandate to generate returns on their investment, not to run for office. Indeed, this has been the dominating state of mind of business leaders for decades.
The problem with this approach is that it leads to a “play it safe” culture, which often finds its way into other parts of the organization. Most companies avoid dealing with polarizing issues at all costs, but for innovative, challenger brands this is an opportunity.
For young companies like us, it isn’t easy to succeed and grow in a multi-trillion dollar industry that’s dominated by century-old incumbents. To be able to stand out, we need to bring something different into the marketplace. So, we built the best digital experience, with coverage at low prices and a seamless, customer-obsessed product. But we also changed the business model of insurance by baking charitable giving into it. And, we do what no other insurer would dare do – we speak up.
A few years back, in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre, we took a clear stance on the topic of gun ownership, and worked on excluding insurance coverage for assault weapons in our policies. Our clear, non-apologetic position against assault weapon ownership proved to be a powerful culture-shaping moment in the life of the company and was well received by many potential and existing customers (in addition to some hate mail from a small minority of customers).
We’re not looking for controversy, but controversy often finds you when dealing with charged topics, and we wholeheartedly believe it’s a risk worth taking.
We continued with our public stance against investment in the fossil fuel industry. The non-renewable energy industry is considered to be one of the main contributors to the climate crisis. We were the first insurance company in the US to commit to never invest in the polluting oil and gas industry. This decision didn’t come without a cost, as we intentionally gave up an investment that in retrospect, could have brought a nice return.
Sometimes, these issues hit closer to home. And this brings me to the stance we’re taking today.
Israel is undergoing unprecedented internal turmoil. A recently elected government is trying to undermine the Supreme Court and by doing so compromise its primary protective body. The Israeli democratic system has two balancing guardians – the Knesset, Israel’s legislative body, and the Supreme Court which can overrule decisions that contradict Israel’s Basic Laws. The Knesset, controlled by the coalition, isn’t able to hold the government accountable which leaves only the Supreme Court as a single and last line of defense of our democratic system.
As such, I personally decided to take an active role in the protest against the proposed changes to our judiciary system, alongside many other tech leaders, and am proud to have Lemonade participate as well. Together with other leading tech companies, we hope to help make an impact in maintaining Israel’s democracy.
This is a fight for liberal democracy – it’s not about left or right politics, and still – different people have different opinions. By no means do we expect everyone on our team to blindly agree with everything we say. We celebrate the freedom of having opposing opinions, within Lemonade and out.
Yet, we plan to continue to be vocal about polarizing issues involving freedom, civil rights and climate change without being apologetic about it. We believe this is a risk worth taking.