Originally published as The Big Story in the Brands Taking Stands weekly newsletter; click here to sign up.
Almost every company’s website has a section called “Our Values.” Many have a section titled “Our Mission,” sometimes related to the values commentary, and sometimes a standalone section. These statements usually spell out a business’s commitment to its employees and community, to its standards in its practices, and to its general reason for being, usually in fairly generic terms. Occasionally, there are specific references to causes with which the company is engaged, usually local or national charities or non-profit partner organizations.
Some companies have stepped up their statements by using the term “purpose,” which implies a greater degree of engagement. This is where traditional corporate practice comes into the picture. Public companies have historically been very guarded about making any strong statement(s) that might offend customers, either existing or potential. “Taking sides” is seen as polarizing in itself, no matter the position taken.
However, many of the basic points covered in corporate values, mission, and purpose statements come down pretty explicitly on one side of several major issues. Companies often announce that they do not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, religion, or ethnicity; that they respect human rights; that they do not tolerate harassment or hate speech; that they expect the highest level of conduct from employees; and that they work at being environmentally friendly.
Ironically, many of these values, missions, and purposes actually describe what might be called “stands“ on issues from discrimination to social behaviors. Companies today are indeed taking positions on fundamental internal issues through policies that spell out their workplace codes of conduct, hiring practices, and supply chain sourcing, although perhaps not describing them as such. Whether acknowledged or not, much of business is trying to perform better. Taking explicit public stands on the big social and political issues of the day—immigration, climate change, gun control, and human rights—may be the most visible way in which change is transforming how companies do business, but it’s not the only choice. Progress is also being made internally, away from the media, by the thousands of people all around the world, from employees to consumers, who do the daily work and make daily choices about how to move business to better purpose.
After three years of increasing activity in this area, we’re beginning to arrive at the facts that prove the case. The latest data comes from Accenture Strategy, which has just released its latest Global Consumer Pulse Research. Its bottom-line conclusion: “A majority of consumers globally prefer buying from brands that take a stand on issues they care about.”
Among the highlights of the Accenture survey of 30,000 global consumers:
Look for more such innovative programs to launch as companies search for different ways to make their brand mean something more than just their products and services. Taking a stand, however that term is interpreted and put into practice, is the name of the game in business today.
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John Howell, Chief of Thought Leadership and Editorial Director, is a co-founder of 3BL Media, the parent company of Triple Pundit, begun in 2009. Howell oversees original editorial content procurement and creation. He is also the author of the weekly Brands Taking Stands Newsletter. He has written and edited for Elle, Artforum, High Times, the New York Times Magazine, and the LA Times. Howell is based in Wonalancet, NH.