Ibis Communications

Core Business Member

Ibis Communications, is a branding and marketing solutions firm with a focus on inclusive strategy and bridging to multicultural markets, which has been its forté and hallmark for over a decade. In more recent years, Ibis Communications has expanded its brand to include social impact marketing as part of its commitment to its clients, partners and the global community.

It makes sense, therefore, that the company is concerned about what’s going on in the political sphere. “Within Ibis, there’s a constant dialogue about the issues,” said MaryAnne Howland, President and CEO of Ibis. “I think it’s really important that people understand what our legislators are mandating, and how that impacts our bottom line.  We all have a vested interest in being a more profitable business.”

That means educating both their employees and clients on the politics of business, and how issues like healthcare or “ban the box”—an effort to remove a question about prior criminal history from job application forms, something ASBC has supported—affect businesses and employees. And, as she explained further, that means having lots of conversations within the company itself, letting employees share their views in a safe space.

Ibis itself has been an active participant in several ASBC campaigns, including minimum wage, family medical leave, and ban the box. One area where Ibis is frequently conversing with its employees is on the electoral process – specifically, the importance of improving the integrity of the voting process. That means encouraging voting, but also campaign finance reform.

“As a small business owner,” Howland explained, “issues such as access to capital, tax reform, and healthcare, have a direct impact on our ability to grow and invest back in the business.  A pro-small business agenda is important for the future of our business.” And as a result, “voting is important for putting elected officials in office who will fight for the things that are healthy for my business.” That’s why Ibis gives employees paid time off specifically to vote and encourages partners and clients to do the same.

This doesn’t just apply to voting, however – it also applies to the campaign finance system after the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision. Despite claims that the decision would be good for businesses by letting them spend more money to influence the process, most small businesses (PDF) think Citizens United was a bad decision, and have an overwhelmingly negative view of the role of money in politics, predominantly because they have neither the resources nor the desire to spend money on campaigns – they’d rather spend it on their businesses. That leaves their economic views drowned out by others who have different ideas that are bad for smaller businesses.

Ibis is no different. “We know that small business is the backbone of our economy, that we employ more people than the corporations do,” Howland said. “It just makes me absolutely go ballistic when we know that politicians are being bought by big corporations and small business is just left out to hang, and we’re the ones that are carrying the heavy lift.”

Ibis has supported ASBC’s campaign to overturn Citizens United, a natural fit for a company that recognizes business has an important role to play in politics – just not the one that the Supreme Court was thinking of.

“Within Ibis, there’s a constant dialogue about the issues,” Howland said. “I think it’s really important that people understand what our legislators are mandating, and how that impacts our business and our communities.” That is among the reasons Ibis joined ASBC, and why their view of business engagement goes well beyond just writing checks.