How companies can ‘walk the talk’ on pressing social issues

  • A large majority of consumers now want companies to take a stand on social issues.
  • Many companies struggle to place stakeholders’ interests at the centre of their business.
  • Human Dignity and Tangible Empathy are two qualities needed for responding to social issues while maintaining financial performance. 카지노사이트

No company is an island. Each exists at the centre of a complex web of mutually beneficial stakeholder relationships: raw materials suppliers with investor capital; employee output with consumers’ wallets. Balancing the needs and desires of each group – against both each other and the organization’s financial performance – is no easy task.

As recently as 2017, leadership teams heard that taking a stance on social or political issues “typically [involved] more risk than benefit”. But this advice has dated fast, especially in the age of COVID-19: The proportion of consumers who want companies to take a stand on issues such as sustainability, transparency or fair employment practice has risen from 62% in 2018 to 72% in 2022. And while most leadership teams say they recognize that things need to change, trust in them to “walk the talk” is relatively low.

Take the 2020 racial injustice protests. As decades of anger poured out on to the streets in the US and beyond, corporate bosses heeded a warning: that “the fight for equality doesn’t exist in some vacuum outside your organization”. Many companies rushed to show their support through traditional and social media. But some were accused of cosmetic support for the protests when past actions or the ethnic homogeneity of their workforce – especially in leadership – were exposed.

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In contrast, other organizations were well placed to respond quickly and authentically. One example is ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s who first asserted their support for Black Lives Matter in a 2016 blog post. As board member Daryn Dodson noted, the company’s reaction to the 2020 racial injustice protests didn’t come out of the blue, but rather “from a muscle that was continuously being developed from the board and management team over time”. 바카라사이트

Another is Nike. Their anti-racism campaign, launched in late May 2020, was consistent with previous messaging, like an advert featuring Colin Kaepernick in 2018 and their significant commitment to funding for Black community initiatives. Speaking in June 2020, CEO John Donahoe pointed to progress made by the company internally on diversity – but also to the need to accelerate progress.

Balancing people and profit

So how do companies constructively engage in potentially divisive social issues in a way that balances both people and profit?

The problem for many organizations is that stakeholder-centricity remains somewhat superficial. Too often, we see the perspectives of customers, employees, suppliers and other stakeholders “bolted on” to existing business practices, instead of being “built in”: properly embedded, measured and incentivized. The result is weak stakeholder relationships that deliver neither the insight nor the sense of shared ownership needed to drive behavioural change. 온라인카지

The antidote to this challenge starts with a set of leadership qualities we identified with the World Economic Forum as the “Five Elements” of responsible leadership. But values and intentions don’t equal action. So, we see high-performance leadership teams infusing stakeholder-centricity down through their organizations via a set of 21 management practices we call “Sustainability DNA”.

Of particular relevance to companies trying to balance their response to important, potentially divisive issues with financial growth are practices we group into two buckets: Human Dignityand Tangible Empathy.

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