I cannot say for certain that the global leadership crowd of Davos has read Paul Gilding, but it sure seems like it. By now most of us likely agree that we cannot continue to grow as we have without overtaxing the ecosystem.
Hans Rosling’s visualization of CO2 emissions since 1820 says it all: we need to make things better. The excellent news is that we are beginning to do just that. And, great brands will be a big part of it, as it all comes back to a company’s beliefs, values and the promises it makes.
This 2013 study* by KPMG offers proof. Almost all of the world’s largest 250 companies now report on corporate responsibility activities. Of the companies that publish CR reports:
- 9 in 10 use their reports to identify environmental and social changes that impact the business and its stakeholders.
- 8 in 10 report that they have a strategy to manage the risks and opportunities.
- 7 in 10 report that these changes bring opportunities for the innovation of new products and services.
Companies are coming to the table with a commitment to measure, communicate, and act on data that will improve their impact as global citizens — a great recipe for great brands.
This is corporate responsibility moving beyond mere image and “feel good” to impacting business. You don’t have to look far to see how that shows up in organizational strategies.
- Unilever is working to get publicly listed as a B Corp.
- Citigroup committed a $100 billion investment to tackle climate change.
- CVS decided to forego $2 billion in sales by no longer offering tobacco products in its 7,700 retail stores.
- Meanwhile, massive private companies, like Fidelity and its 41,000 employees, are often driven by an internal ethos.
There is a lot to be excited about here already. But, what’s most exhilarating are the opportunities that open up to more effectively attract, engage and retain employees. Brands reflect the heart and soul of companies. They have a lot to do with why people show up to work every day. Every employee, in one way or another, shapes how the brand lives and breathes, and how customers experience it.
What we are seeing here is massive momentum towards a lot of the stuff that employees care about immensely and which has meaning them. Yes, a company’s brand is a powerful tool with customers and prospects. Could it be equally potent on the inside as an agent of change with employees? I think so.
Sources: theguardian.com, nytimes.com, paulgilding.com, forbes.com, kpmg.com, financialservicesforum.org, gapminder.org. * “KPMG Survey of Corporate Responsibility Reporting 2013”