Tory Burch wants to see more business leaders speak up about social issues: 'I tend not to be able to be silent on issues around humanity'

Photo courtesy of Tory Burch

Some business leaders shy away from voicing strong opinions on current events or speaking up against injustice, a choice often stemming from a fear of alienating employees and customers who might disagree.

But executives have a unique power and platform to spread awareness about different issues and can influence how the government responds, whether it's the Covid-19 pandemic or a spike in mass shootings across the U.S.

In a recent interview with CNBC Make It, American businesswoman and philanthropist Tory Burch stressed how important it is for business leaders to advocate for positive social and environmental change.

"Being in a leadership role is a balance, but that said, I tend not to be able to be silent on issues around humanity," she said. "Politics is one thing, and sometimes there's a gray area, but issues of humanity are where having a platform, being able to use our business to have a voice for people who don't have one and help in some way, is a privilege."

Burch's charitable arm, the Tory Burch Foundation, hosted their biennial summit earlier this week, which featured expert discussions on issues such as gun safety and abortion access in the U.S.

The fashion designer kicked off a conversation with Monisha Henley, the director of state affairs at Everytown for Gun Safety, and actress Julianne Moore, who is also a founding chair of Everytown's creative council, by listing off several mass shootings that have occurred in the U.S., including the recent massacre in Uvalde, Texas, that killed two teachers and 19 students.

"I don't think there is a Democrat or Republican who doesn't want this violence to stop," Burch said to the audience.

Speaking with CNBC Make It, Burch referenced last month's leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion, which showed that the court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, effectively removing nearly 50 years of federal protection for abortion.

"The fact that we're talking about women's rights, that we could be going backward in 2022, is very appalling and scary," she said. "It's not where many of us thought we would be right now."

Part of Burch's approach to raising awareness of such social issues is organizing events like Tuesday's summit, where psychologists, CEOs, activists and other professionals can gather and talk through the biggest challenges facing the U.S. right now.

"It's important to really try to understand different points of view and be good listeners, and often to people that disagree with your personal points of view, and then try to figure out how to come to some sort of compromise," she said. "That's something I'm truly obsessed with: how do we not lecture people, but enlighten people with different ways of thinking?"

Both in the U.S. and the world, she added, "things are so divisive — we all need to commit to figuring out conversations that help people narrow the divide."

Check out:

Tory Burch credits her business savvy to this 8-word piece of advice from her grandmother

More U.S. companies could introduce abortion benefits soon—here's what to know

The 10 U.S. cities where women are most likely to earn $100,000 or more

Sign up now: Get smarter about your money and career with our weekly newsletter

How this 21-year-old earns and spends $93,000 a year in Chicago
How this 21-year-old earns and spends $93,000 a year in Chicago