07 May Social Responsibility: Are You Living Your Values?
Are you living your values when you purchase products and choosing a company to work for? Are your employees, customers, and investors voting their espoused values of green and good when they choose what to buy, where to work, and how to invest? Last week I had a great conversation with two senior execs at one of the most recognized brands in the world and I want to share my takeaways about corporate social responsibility.
One of the great challenges of a human life is living our values. Research shows that people who know their values and believe they are living them are happier and more engaged at work. When it comes to the Purpose Revolution—the trend for customers, employees, and investors to want to do business with companies that are doing good—it turns out that the conversion rate from values to action is still relatively low.
Social Responsibility at HP
Just last week I was talking to a pair of senior executives at HP. They were talking about their significant efforts to create more sustainable products as well as their code of ethics for their supply chain. They told me that the conversion rate at the retail level of customers choosing “good” is still relatively low.
But they also told me something else. They said that their large retail customers as well as their B2B customers are VERY focused on whether their products are green and ethical. In other words, the companies closest to the customer can see where the trend is going. Globally, about two-thirds of consumers and employees care about buying and working with purpose and corporate social responsibility. Because the conversion rate is still relatively low now, it means a substantial opportunity for those companies that get ahead of the curve.
When the customer service revolution began, only a few customers demanded great service. Now exceptional consistent service is an expectation deeply ingrained in our psyche. The reasons we find it hard to live our values are important and show where the opportunity lies.
First, customers are confused as to whether the companies or products they buy are actually green or good. So our job as companies is to find ways to authentically tell our story of good and social responsibility. Turns out employees are generally less confused since they watch day in and day out the values of their companies lived in living color. Yet many companies fail to compellingly tell our story to our own people to truly make them ambassadors for our brand.
Second, we all have competing values. The HP folks told me that when customers are buying or choosing an employer they have more on their mind than doing good. They want the product to get the job done and feel good about the purchase. Employees want to have good pay, benefits, and a career ladder AND feel like their company is doing good in the world. Investors want to make money AND feel their investments are building a better world or doing less harm. This is the AGE OF AND as I tell people all the time (hint maybe I have a book coming on this). It is our job to make sure we check both boxes. Our motto should be something like Getting It Done—The Right Way. We want the Bundle—good AND effective.
Third, we just have not reached the Tipping Point yet but we will. All you Gladwell fans know that many social trends tread water under the surface before they become the norm. Take Warby Parker, the online eyewear company rooted deeply in doing good and doing well. You can buy knowing every pair means eyeglasses for a person in need somewhere in the world. The company is growing leaps and bounds partly because of the commitment to social responsibility. When customers see clear good, they act. Or Seventh Generation who make environmentally friendly cleaning products who are poaching great talent from major brands because top talent wants to do well AND do good. Clients tell me they see top talent already voting with their feet to join purposeful companies.
Here are the takeaways:
- Everyone one of us is creating the world we want in the future by the purchases and investments we are making now. If you find a brand doing good AND doing well, reward them with your loyalty and spread the word. Reward those companies and tell their story on social media. I’ll personally tell you to put Seventh Generation on that list and HP too. You will be happier for living your values AND make a difference.
- Don’t be confused by the gap between Values and Action when it comes to green and good. There is a reason HP’s biggest B2B customers are asking about these issues consistently. The canaries in the mine like Warby-Parker and Seventh Generation are where things are going.
- Tell your compelling story of good internally to your people. Your team members are the most believable ambassadors for your brand. Make sure they know how green and good your company is so that they brand you from the Inside Out.
So, are you living your values? Do your customers, investors and employees KNOW your compelling story of good or are they confused?
Be well and do good work.