Protecting and strengthening our democracy requires year-round engagement. The fault lines in our democratic system aren’t just around electoral cycles–they’re every day that a state legislature works to roll back voting rights or the judiciary enables anti-democratic gerrymandering. As we approach the 2024 election, business leaders have a critical role to play in standing up for our democracy.
A well-functioning democracy is the cornerstone of a strong economy. However, growing and well-documented threats to our democracy are now creating a business environment marked by new risks–including restricted speech, retribution, and legal confusion.
It’s clear that corporate leaders are invested in our democratic future. Research from the Business & Democracy Initiative found that 96% of business leaders say the existence of a well-functioning democracy is important to a strong economy. Independent judiciaries and transparent legal systems provide vital stability and predictability for businesses, promoting competition and ensuring businesses operate on a level playing field. Freedom of speech and expression allows businesses to challenge the status quo, resulting in innovations that benefit consumers, drive economic growth, and promote job creation.
Another Jan. 6 must and can be prevented. Business leaders have the power to help uphold our democracy heading into 2024–and there are concrete steps they can and should take. Our power is grounded in the unique relationship of trust that we have with employees, customers, communities, and the American people at large. According to Edelman’s 2023 Trust Barometer, business is the world’s most trusted sector, and Gallup recently found that small business is the most trusted sector in the United States.
As we approach the 2024 elections, this trust makes business a critical conduit for delivering trustworthy information to employees and consumers. Business leaders can raise awareness about election risks with their employees and emphasize the importance of voting and civic engagement.
Employees have a strong desire to support democratic integrity. In response, it’s becoming the new norm to offer paid time off for employees to vote. Many companies are going beyond that crucial step to allow employees time to work polling places. And companies may be rewarded for this level of engagement, with nearly half (48%) of consumers saying they are more likely to buy a good or service from a business that allows employees to take time off from work to engage in the political process.
We can also use our trusted voices to support pro-democracy legislation at the state and federal levels. Business leaders were a key part of the coalition that came together to support the Electoral Count Reform Act, a key piece of legislation that slammed the door on a vulnerability in our democratic system that was weaponized in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election. Heading into 2024, there are other pro-democracy legislative efforts to protect voting rights and secure election infrastructure that business leaders can support, particularly at the state level.
Political giving is one of the most powerful levers that business leaders can use in supporting pro-democracy interests. In our electoral system, businesses and their employees are the biggest contributors to political candidates, PACs, and parties–and they must ensure their contributions are flowing to campaigns and causes that align with pro-democracy values.
Finally, business leaders can support accurate and open elections by providing resources and in-kind support for election administration and security infrastructure, including funding for election system stress tests, tech upgrades, and training.
The integrity of our democracy is not a partisan issue. A vibrant civil society and a well-functioning democracy ensure a wide range of perspectives from across the political spectrum are robustly represented. By opposing efforts that undermine democracy, business leaders will be standing for the rights of all people, of any party.
We have the responsibility and power to protect democracy right now. We have tools at our disposal to speak out against efforts to undermine the 2024 elections and the right to vote, support efforts to ensure free and fair elections, and promote civic engagement and democratic participation within our workforce. By doing so, we can ensure that our democracy remains strong–and our economy continues to thrive.
Daniella Ballou-Aares is the founder and CEO of the Leadership Now Project, a national membership organization of business and thought leaders committed to fixing American democracy.
Rhett Buttle is the founder of Public Private Strategies (PPS), which creates opportunities where the public and private sectors meet. Rhett also served as National Business Advisor to President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign.
Samantha Tweedy is the CEO of The Black Economic Alliance (BEA), a nonpartisan group of Black business leaders and aligned advocates working to expand the political and economic power of the Black community.
The opinions expressed in Fortune.com commentary pieces are solely the views of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of Fortune.