In this third and final article in his series on how businesses can and must develop socially-conscious practices to survive, Steven Howard concludes by forecasting the new relationship between consumers and business.
- Consumers are demanding their brands have a social purpose
- Don’t just show consumers charity: show them your conscience
The Era of Rsponsibility
Let me begin with a statement that I firmly believe in. It has been the central theme of this series:
Authenticity and trust will be two of the key cornerstones for corporate reputations in this Era of Responsibility.
This will come not only from your policies and public pronouncements, but from the actions and beliefs of your employees.
I highly commend to you this four-minute YouTube video featuring Corporate Philosopher Roger Steare, Professor of Ethics at London’s Cass Business School, in which he says, “Money is simply a promissory trust. When we break promises and we break trust, we destroy money, which is what we have seen in the past two years on a global scale.”
Roger Steare Champions Business Ethics
If it’s broke, admit it: embracing transparency
I have spent the better part of the past six months in the United States observing media trends, researching numerous topics and industries, and discussing the state of society with a highly diverse mix of professionals and lay people. The reaction I see coming from the recently completed Decade of the Double Zeros is a segue into an Era of Responsibility.
Those organisations which take the initiative to help solve the problems of society, including the environment, will be the ones rewarded with loyal customers.
Those organisations which take immediate, clear and transparent responsibility for fixing any problems they cause – including immediate acknowledgement of their errors, sincere apologies for their mistakes, rapid action to fix their messes, and the required investment to prevent a repeat of the problem – will be forgiven by customers and go unpunished.
Those which do not will quickly lose customers, loyalty, sales, and profits as their misdeed will promptly and swiftly be broadcast through all Web 2.0 channels (as seen in the recent high-profile meltdowns of the Tiger Woods, Toyota, and BP brands).
Every Boardroom and every senior management team should be asking themselves, “What lessons are there for our organisation from the way Toyota and BP have handled/mishandled their recent responsibility challenges?”
Are you studying up on Corporate Responsibility?
The era of responsibility is not a fad that will pass and be quickly forgotten once economies retreat to substantial growth levels.
It is a trend that is going to impact elections, market share, social institutions, and the composition of the various stock market indices around the world. Like most trends, those who get in front at the beginning will be the ones who remain ahead as the tide carries others along.
I read with great interest earlier this year that La Trobe University’s Graduate School of Management will present Australia’s first Masters Degree wholly focused on corporate responsibility – the Masters of Corporate Responsibility.
I, for one, cannot wait for the day when MCR degrees outnumber MBA degrees.
Hopefully this initiative by La Trobe University will catch on like wildfire at universities across the world.
Until then, I suggest you enter the Era of Responsibility with due caution and with the principles of morality, humanity and doing the right thing in business as espoused by Corporate Philosopher Roger Steare in the above video clip and in his book “Ethicability.”
And remember, authenticity is required when engaging customers and stakeholders in the Era of Responsibility.
More importantly, every organisation has a responsibility to ensure that our children inherit a better world.
Steven Howard is a Melbourne-based marketing consultant, author, professional business writer, and Non-Executive Director in both the profit and non-profit fields. He is also Chief Strategist at Howard Marketing Services (www.howard-marketing.com).