Opportunity is everywhere. Covid-19 has led to many people resigning their positions to reimagine how to reinvent themselves. What are companies doing to reimagine their contribution to a better world? Good progress is being made, as I will show in my next book, Radical Business (April 2022 Emerald Publishing Group (UK)), but the bulk of the force-for-good opportunities remain un/underdeveloped. Now is the time for you and your company to really get ahead. Your company’s reputation will be directly impacted by the choices you and your colleagues make and if you commit to doing well by doing good, then the chances are also good your company will not just survive but thrive. Conversely, if you behave as if it’s business-as-usual even after ‘things settle down’, then unfortunately your company won’t last long against more agile and forward-thinking competitors. Consumers around the world are telling us that they expect businesses to do far more than they are currently doing to create meaningful societal value.
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is one wake-up call telling your company to create economic opportunity that is diverse, equitable, inclusive, and just. What can you do? A lot, actually. Starting now. From revisiting your values, to reviewing and updating your hiring and compensation practices, to having your company get directly involved in the communities you serve, let people know that you won’t tolerate injustice and that any company practices that are deficient will be fixed immediately. Eliminating racial injustice has enormous potential economic upside. Economic models show that more than $8 trillion in increased GDP can be unlocked by closing the racial equity gap.[i] But it’s about more than unlocking trillions in economic value—it is about demonstrating to the world that you are breaking down systemic, institutional barriers, and building up a healthier society. And it is simply the right thing to do.
Rapidly changing consumer preferences are another wake-up call. Research shows that consumers expect companies to improve their social responsibility. Gen Z, the world’s fastest growing economic and social power, is telling us what they want. And they don’t have tolerance for business veterans intent on kicking the proverbial can down the road for others to deal with. They expect business leaders to demonstrate a much stronger sense of urgency.[ii] Investors are paying attention and are shifting their investment criteria toward ESG as a result. 73% are saying that ESG practices and disclosures produce positive returns on their investments.[iii] But there is another wake-up call within the consumer data, and it is a substantial challenge you can’t ignore: only 36% of consumers trust business leaders to do what is right on behalf of people and the planet.[iv] If you don’t quickly, and genuinely, build consumer trust, you are harming the potential of your company and your stakeholders to prosper, and consumers will not just notice, they’ll stop doing business with you. That’s not alarmist. It is simply based on facts. The trends are against you surviving if you persist in operating in a business-as-usual way.[v]
Building societal value shouldn’t be contrary to a business’s success, yet it is too often relegated to a lower priority list, to be considered when times are good. That attitude suggests that being socially responsible is situational, and such an approach is the result of company leaders who don’t fully understand the importance of societal value to their company’s long-term financial success and survival. Doing well by doing good isn’t something to do when you are financially strong. It is a never-ending responsibility for being organizationally strong. The door is open now for you and your company to go through, leaving the land of obsolete business practices and entering the world of meaningful, force-for-good opportunities. The good news is that by improving your societal value contribution, you can foster trust, strengthen your reputation, and improve your company’s overall success.[vi] When Radical Business comes out in April 2022, you’ll get to read about and learn from incredible leaders who are showing us the way forward. Their contributions illustrate that while change is hard, it is doable, and rewarding.
[i] Turner, Ani. (2018). The Business Case for Racial Equity. W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Pp.3, 8-9. Retrieved from http://www.nationalcivicleague.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/RacialEquityNationalReport-kellogg.pdf.
[ii] Levato, Federica; Fabio Colacchio. (2021). Making Its Mark on Fashion. Bain. Retrieved from https://www.bain.com/insights/how_generation_z_is_making_its_mark_on_fashion/. (Full report is available for download from this link).
[iii] Stobierski, Tim. (2021). 15 Eye-Opening Corporate Social Responsibility Statistics. Harvard Business School online. Retrieved from https://online.hbs.edu/blog/post/corporate-social-responsibility-statistics.
[iv] No author. (2018). 2018 World Value Index. Enso. P.18. Retrieved from https://www.enso.co/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/World-Value-Index-2018-Brand-Report-enso.pdf.
[v] Stobierski, Tim. (2021). 15 Eye-Opening Corporate Social Responsibility Statistics. Harvard Business School. Retrieved from https://online.hbs.edu/blog/post/corporate-social-responsibility-statistics.
[vi] Janciauskaite, Laura; Kristina Lasickaite; Auste Ripkauskaite. (2019). Corporate Sustainability Impact on Reputation and Customer Behavior. Vladas Gronskas International Scientific Conference. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/342208996_Corporate_sustainability_impact_on_reputation_and_customer_behaviour.