Major consumer brands like Coca-Cola Co. and Delta Air Lines Inc. have for years positioned themselves as forces to promote what they consider a social good – an approach they took last summer after the death of George Floyd.

Coca-Cola turned off the billboard in Times Square for a day. Delta flew Mr. Floyd’s body to his family in Houston. The Atlanta-based corporations were among the dozen large corporations across the country to pledge a series of funds and racial justice initiatives amid the upheaval caused by Mr. Floyd’s death in police custody.

Now business leaders are under renewed pressure from progressive activists to prove that these commitments were more than just talks. As activists urge companies to condemn new electoral laws, CEOs are once again faced with a difficult line on emotional, political issues and risk setback from all sides.

CEOs “take this path” by engaging with social issues in response to their employees and in part as a form of marketing, says Harris Diamond, former executive director of advertising giant McCann Worldgroup. “As soon as you open that door, you must live by it.”

The recent controversial battle for Republican-led electoral law in Georgia has highlighted the challenges. Civil rights activists pressured Delta and Coca-Cola to take a public stand against the law, which the groups described as restrictive and racist. Some of the company’s employees agreed with these concerns.