Speaking out on social issues can come at a high cost, especially when you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. But for some, it’s worth the trouble.
Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Air Lines (No. 75 on the Fortune 500 list of America’s biggest companies) wasted no time in cutting ties with the National Rifle Association in the wake of the deadly shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
“I knew there would be backlash—but I didn’t anticipate the strength of the backlash from the NRA movement,” says Bastian. “But on the other side, it created an outpouring of support, and appreciation for a company to stand by its values.”
Also at risk from Delta’s NRA decision was a $40 million Georgia tax break. State legislatures rescinded the deal despite voting overwhelmingly to approve it just a week prior, says Bastian, adding that the reduced tax burden could have been used to reinvest savings in new routes and attract more business to Atlanta, where Delta is based—also home to its largest hub.
“I’m not trying to be a politician. I’m not looking to be a social activist. I’m looking to run the best airline on the planet,” Bastian says. “As part of that, we have a responsibility to our customers, employees, and community partners to do the right thing.”
Watch the video above for more from Fortune’s interview with Bastian.