It is in the not-so-distant future that your consumers, clients, partners, and your suppliers, banks, financiers, and insurances—you name it—will demand more and more proof concerning your corporate social responsibility before they will continue doing business with you. The 32-year old definition for “sustainable development”, a development that meets today’s generation’s needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs now applies to you.
What is in your strategy today and what is going on today in your organization that will either ensure or undermine the sustainability of your company? What might jeopardize your future is insufficient proactive action to do good beyond your business’s bottom line.
What we mean by being authentic here is “being true to what you hold yourself to be.” That goes way beyond not lying, it is aligning all your actions with what your company says it is for all its stakeholders. What’s more, is doing so in a way that when you communicate about it, people want more of what you are rather than shrugging with cynical thoughts in mind.
Well, imagine your organization has not reached this level of authenticity yet. Let’s consider it has signed an anti-corruption agreement and keeps doing business in countries that require some sort of corruption to operate. You can claim to be the only one in your industry doing fair business in that country, who will believe you nowadays, seriously? What does your tax leveling scheme look like? Is it a solid, fair practice in line with all regulations or does it look like tax evasion to many people? Such a debate does not only happen in court in disputes between your lawyers and tax makers, but it also happens in front of the shelves or in online shopping baskets.
Everything is under scrutiny. It is just a matter of time.
You can sacrifice authenticity on the altar of pragmatism and gamble with the time factor. Some liabilities get dissolved with time and short memories. Or as a company, you can make another choice: an investment to lose some business or some profitability now, to win in the future. Return on investment guaranteed? Of course not, what’s more, guaranteed is the next What-Leaks. Ask your HR department how many whistle-blowers you have on the payroll.
If you choose authenticity, the way to start the journey is by being authentic about where you have been inauthentic. Admit green-washing and empty-shell corporate social responsibility campaigns. Do it until you break through the cynicism that individuals have built against large corporations. Then ask for dialogues with your stakeholders, hear what they have to say, what they expect, and explain transparently what you can do, what you cannot. Bring them in so that they know you and contribute to finding common solutions. It is unfair to always blame corporations, except when they are not willing to share responsibility with the wider community. Turn it from a blame game to a this is our problem to solve.
You will win in the war for talents.
Ivy League graduates are seeking meaningful jobs and not applying at your company despite luring packages? What’s wrong with the Z generation? They want to be proud to say in their community that they are working for an organization that holds high standards and the young generation sets the standards, not you, sorry. Rather than claiming that you do great for the planet, while you secretly hope for not being discovered on shady aspects of the business—these emissions “just above regulatory limits”, or this gender “slight inequalities” that we have not been solved yet.
What if you started to communicate openly about your issues to align your stand for doing good and your actual problems, where creative solutions need to be found with the larger community. What if this approach could become your secret weapon to attract these young talents?