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Have you been left at the dock?

The social responsibility train has been chugging down the track for years now. But, business as we have known it in the past is changing at warp speed, much of it due to the expectations of our consumers, investors and employees. Corporate social responsibility, once a “nice to have” has become the norm in the eyes of these stakeholders. Are you onboard or have you been left at the dock while your competitors travel full steam ahead?

Let’s take a look at 2018 trends and predictions. According to Cone Communications’ 2017 CSR Study, 70% of Americans believe companies have an obligation to take actions to improve issues that may not be relevant to their everyday business. Have you asked yourself exactly how your business is contributing to the betterment of the world around you or, at the very least, its impact - good or bad? Consider the checklist below:

1. Are you conscious of your marketing influence in terms of social impact? Consumers need to know instantaneously where a company stands on a social issue, particularly if it is within their field of expertise or they appear to be offering an opinion on it. More frequently, we are seeing companies pull ads after a hue and cry from the public. Remember the Pepsi ad where Kendall Jenner tried to break up discord between protestors and the police by offering a can of Pepsi to a cop? Or, Adidas’ tweet “Congratulations, you survived the Boston Marathon”, Nivea’s “White is Purity” ad and Dove’s reshaping of their shampoo bottles to reflect women’s body shapes? All of these marketing initiatives were costly to the companies. What message is your business giving in terms of its positions?

2. Are you offering corporate support when communities are hit with disasters? Corporate disaster relief assistance has increased by over 90% as companies rise to fill gaps in government support. Are you a beacon in your community like Gallery Furniture was in Houston for those affected by Hurricane Harvey? It not only donated money but opened its doors to those who had lost their homes and had no where to sleep. We applauded Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise lines who sent ships to devastated Puerto Rico to deliver aid and help victims evacuate after Hurricane Maria. All of these efforts are not only necessary for our communities, they show that the company cares deeply. Internally, do you have programs in place for employees that have been affected? Have you invested in programs that protect your business in times of disaster, or mitigate the risk by addressing critical climate-related challenges?

3. Are you tracking the data to show your impact? Not only is this important to show your stakeholders that you are a good corporate citizen walking the talk, it creates a movement in the industry causing others to jump onboard. In many instances, governmental bodies are beginning to require this data, particularly in the public and international markets. If you are a non-profit, can you provide relevant data to a corporate partner? The net impact is faster solutions to challenging issues that affect all of us and an equalization in the playing field.

4. Where does your business stand in terms of workplace inequality? This has been a hot topic inundating the media and we are seeing companies supporting this movement by equalizing pay, getting rid of those engaged in sexual harassment and refocusing on diversity on all levels. Are you prepared to answer questions from your employee base and new recruits to show that you continue to address these issues? Are you prepared to be transparent?

5. Are you ready for an impending talent gap as Boomers exit and Gen Z follows the Millennials into the workforce? Born between 1995 and 2015, this generation is the first born post-digital world, they have never existed without the internet and Google. Equality is a top issue for them in terms of opportunities and the world around them and they are motivated like the Millennials by purpose. Are your employment benefits and opportunities tailored in a way that can be communicated to them in ways that work? Is your Employer Brand showcased at venues that they frequent to enhance your recruiting efforts? Think engagement and retention or be prepared to lose a lot of money with constant turnover.

6. Is your leadership team prepared to shift old paradigms of leadership to new ones? Do your board and management team understand the criticality of corporate responsibility programs and have they “bought in” to them? Do you have mentoring and education programs that support them? Do you have succession plans in place that reflect your commitment? Is your team still focused on immediate return or long-term sustainability, now required by the marketplace? Statistics show that companies that engage in these measures often do better than the Fortune 500. Consumers and investors are slowly but surely changing their focus and CEOs have been banding together taking a stand on topics such as climate change, discrimination and immigration policies. Have you benchmarked your place in the movement?

By 2020, Millennials will comprise over 50% of management in the workforce, Gen Z is expected to make up 40% of all consumers, influencing about $40 billion in annual sales. Companies with purpose driven initiatives and a show of collective force to solve some our world’s most pressing issues will be the ones viewed as the trendsetters, innovators and leaders. Where are you on the journey?

Copyright © 2018

All rights reserved Linda L.Lattimore

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