Should Your Company Care About Doing Good?

In today’s unstable financial world we all need to think about is the bottom line. Where can we get new customers from? How do we decrease churn? How can we increase profits?

“Goodness is the only investment that never fails” – Henry David Thoreau

Our magpie-like obsession with cash-flow has led companies to some pretty dark places. Ford knowingly signed hundreds of death warrants with their Pinto model in the 1970’s, refusing to fix their fire-prone fuel tanks. The upgrade would have cost more than the $200,000 Ford set as the value for a human life.

Today’s corporations’ compete with their carefully constructed CSR schemes, constantly trying to outdo each other and promote their brands. Is this something that you should be thinking about?

Simply put, should your company care about doing good, and is it realistic to expect all companies to focus on making a difference?

People Care About Doing Good

Central to the rhetoric of most employers is the importance of company culture – how essential it is to create a working environment that keeps employees happy. It isn’t just the threat of the ‘great reveal’ on social networks like Glassdoor that keeps companies honest here, happier employees tend to be more productive.

Recent Deloitte research suggests that employees who frequently volunteer for charitable causes are more likely to be satisfied at work, happier, and are also more likely to recommend their employer to friends. It could be worth testing whether a CSR scheme has a similar effect at your company.

The impact of encouraging charity isn’t restricted to your existing workforce, it also has an impact on recruitment. A great recent piece from Barry Salzburg used findings from a Deloitte survey to explore what millennials want from their career. Generation y expect businesses to do good – 68% believe that companies could do more to reduce resource scarcity and 65% want employers to tackle climate change more effectively. Companies are scrambling to find the best strategy to attract troublesome Millennials, but maybe the answer is clear – show that you care.

Caring Can Help Your Company

Doing ‘good’ also gives you a new angle from which to approach customers. Over the past few years Walmart has established itself as a leader in environment issues. In 2008 they ran a successful ad campaign to raise awareness about the environment and help customers make better choices. It helped them engage customers and promote their stance on environmentalism.

CSR schemes can be a good way to look after your company’s long term future. Unilever CEO Paul Polman defines sustainability broadly. He wants to improve things for his customers and workers, as well as contribute to society as a whole. He argues that companies are coming under increasing public scrutiny, and these steps are necessary to maintain the firm’s “licence to operate”.

Caring can also lead to innovation. Unilever has had great success with dry shampoo – a product that was aimed at encouraging people to save water. Without sustainability on the agenda it’s unlikely they would have found this popular solution (we all know plenty of people who rely heavily on it today!)

Not All Companies Can Be Caring 

There’s a central problem with all of this – caring costs money. In his recent book ‘Zero to One‘, Peter Thiel argues that it’s something that only businesses that have established a monopoly can afford to care about. It’s Unilever’s dominance that allows it the luxury of it’s ‘Sustainable Living Plan’ (detailed in this excellent ‘Economist’ article) – 99% of companies need to dedicate their resources to growth and profitability.

In general we’re getting better, but we have to acknowledge that companies will always put profitability first. Brands are always looking to cut costs despite tragedies like the Rana Plaza factory collapse.

It’s wrong to ask all companies to try and do good from the outset – even Google has dropped it’s famous ‘don’t be evil’ motto. Despite this, we can (and we should) work towards a more sustainable future.

This post originally appeared on the Seed Blog

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Brand Reality of Buying Wonka Bars at Walmart: #TChat Recap

Your brand is how your company tastes inside and out. This includes your your employment brand and B2B and/or B2C corporate brand.

Used to be that all we ever saw of the inside was what was printed on the outside — the pretty packaging and marketing spin as well as what was regulated by the Federal government (which most of us never really read, and if we did, we didn’t understand it and still don’t).

The brand tastes were still pretty much similar and controlled by the company. In fact, until recently it was only the sugar coating we ever really tasted, no matter how much we bit off.

But mercy, if we really knew the stuff that was on the inside…

Then a little phenomenon came about called social media that threw flying monkey wrenches into the batter. As I’m sure you’ve gathered, flying monkey wrenches are bittersweet and can give both employees and customers a horrible belly ache.

Not that eating highly saturated fats around the water cooler wasn’t/isn’t fun when talking smack about your employer and other employer’s gut bombs you consumed recently. But now you have access to online forums and review sites and social networking sites and unreality TV shows that delve deep into the inner workings of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

Another interesting phenomenon? Most of you didn’t stop buying Wonka bars when you found out children had fallen into the chocolate lake, the one that was supposed to be child free. And those of us with kids know just how dirty kids can be.

Here’s another example: we were on a family vacation on the Oregon coast this last week where my folks live and we made multiple runs to Walmart. For tons of cheap stuff including stuff for our two little girls. Some of you may scoff, but hey, we know Walmart is the low price leader and price. We also know that they’ve had discrimination lawsuits filed against them by female workers, have been chastised forever about not allowing their employees to organize, have been accused for paying employees lower wages than other major retail chains, have been accused of buying marginal product in bulk overseas, etc.

In other words, the sugar coating for us overrides the flying monkey wrenches. That’s why we still see such a differentiation of company and employment branding today, when in the optimal organics world they really should be aligned.

So, who controls employer brand today? We do, the employees and the customers. But does that stop us from buying Wonka bars at Walmart? Or even working there?

No way. That’s the brand reality.

You can read the excellent #TChat preview Employer Branding: Best Practice or BS?, and here were the questions from last night’s #TChat:

  • Q1. What’s your definition of company or employer brand?
  • Q2. How does employer brand differ from a consumer brand?  Personal brand?
  • Q3. What makes a strong employer brand?  A weak one?
  • Q4. How does employer brand play into talent acquisition?  Retention?
  • Q5. What effect does social media have on employer branding?
  • Q6. Who controls employer brand: the company, employees, public, etc.?

Thanks to everyone who stopped by and to her TC majesty @MeghanMBiro for moderating! Hey, quick plug – #TChat Radio is coming July 26! Great guests lining up from our #TChat family. Join us!