Now showing items tagged corporate social responsibility
In an era increasingly defined by scandal, hypocrisy and betrayals of public trust, customers are increasingly holding corporations to high standards of integrity. Businesses and brands can no longer afford to cut ethical corners, fall short of marketing promises or fail to practise what they preach. In an age of skepticism and transparency, what customers are craving from their companies is congruence.
In order to build the trust and rapport with customers that has been so often compromised, businesses and brands need clear sets of values that they are committed to upholding. Without clear values to guide conduct and culture, it’s easy to lose our way, lose sight of the things that really count and subsequently lose the trust of those who matter most.
The world’s most famous Youtuber made the news in late January for his big spending. While Youtubers are notorious for their opulence, the standout part of this video was that this was spending with a cause – that cause being the funding of life-changing eye surgery for 1000 unsuspecting strangers. Mr Beast may be known for his extravagance, but he is undeniably admired for his philanthropy.
The demand for sustainability has no less than revolutionised the way companies do business. In the last decade, the move towards sustainable products, waste solutions and emissions reductions has forced businesses to pursue purpose over profits, leading the way to a new and positive form of conscious capitalism.
The call for sustainable packaging has been one of the strongest demands of our sustainability goals, forcing us to turn away from the abundant plastics embraced by older generations. While recyclable materials and a shift away from single-use plastic is nothing new, emerging models for addressing unsustainable packaging offer an exciting glimpse of the future.
A few years ago, I was running a strategy workshop with the leadership team of a global medical device firm. As we explored the disruptions that were impacting their business most, one came up that I hadn't previously considered.
An audience member shared that while increased competition and demographic changes were having a significant impact, a new trend that was proving enormously disruptive to their business was how increasingly aware their customers were of price variations across different markets. “In the past,” he said, “a customer in Spain was unlikely or unable to compare the price they were paying for a medical device with that of a patient in New Zealand. That’s all changed now. Our customers do compare and it is doing significant damage to our brand’s perceived trustworthiness.”
This challenge is far from unique. Across the board, consumers are demanding more and more information regarding the products they use on a daily basis.
In a marketplace increasingly concerned with climate change and environmental sustainability, the call to action for companies rings loud and clear. With Millennials and Gen Z consistently willing to pay more for products with purpose and boycott the companies that fall short, businesses and brands can no longer ignore the demands of the environment, or the market.
In this climate, it is tempting for some businesses to engage in ‘greenwashing’, making statements or taking actions that may seem impressive but in reality do little to mitigate environmental impacts. Other companies well and truly practice what they preach, and it comes as no surprise that these are the ones that reap the rewards.
Within a society driven by capitalist aims – efficiency, accumulation, profits – the endless innovation of new products is a worthy practice. Keeping consumers keen for new products is key, and so the clever marketing, regular new releases and planned obsolescence begin. After all, why would a customer buy a new product if they are satisfied with what they have?
Neuroscientist and author of The Trust Factor, Paul Zak, has spent years studying what builds trust between individuals. His findings are remarkable and yet surprisingly simple. According to Zak, the most important factor at play in gaining trust is our ‘humanness’. When we are real, vulnerable and even fallible, oxytocin is released in the brains of others – a neuro-mechanism humans have used for centuries to determine who we can trust.
This is an important revelation for every leader, professional or brand. For years we have worked hard to project sanitized and corporatized versions of ourselves. Spin doctors and corporate communications departments have tended to carefully craft every message in an effort to ensure communication is predictable, reliable and on-brand.
This approach has well and truly seen its day. In an era of post-truth paradigms, endless marketing, pervasive non-human tech and eroded trust, polished professionalism and corporate spin simply does not stand up to scrutiny. In place of the impersonal corporate giants of yesterday, consumers today are looking for brands that have an organic personality and act with authenticity.
More than any other time of history, we have trust issues. As our era has seen so many of the institutions that once stood as societal backbones crumble beneath scandals, lies and alternative facts, the value of trustworthiness has skyrocketed in its scarcity.
Whether in our personal relationships or our interactions with big brands and institutions, trust is the foundation of loyalty, engagement and affinity. This foundation has taken a pounding in recent years – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fundamental goal of businesses is to make a profit. Statements like this have permeated business textbooks, dominated the strategic plans of companies and summarised the ethos of the corporate world essentially since it began.