corporate citizenship

Business and Society: Taking Responsibility

This is not going to be a long post, because you know what you need to do and what your responsibilities are - both as part of business and part of society.

Recently, I was asked to update a White Paper I wrote a few years ago for the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants on corporate reputation. Part of what I was asked to update are the case studies - and that got me looking closely at what had changed in the years since I first wrote the thing. And that got me looking at Goldman Sachs.

Did you know that within a month period Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman's CEO, gave an interview where he explained that people were going to have to lower their expectations of the government help they receive (everything from Medicare and Social Security to Veteran's benefits, Disability and Food Stamps) because the Government simply can't afford it and made the decision to pay his executives their 2012 bonuses a month early so that they would miss the tax increase that was occurring as of January 1, 2013?

The optics of the decision were bad enough.

It's the fact that he preceded it by telling those who can't afford multi-million dollar homes, let alone multi-thousand dollar suits, that they have to change their expectations...because people like him were going to make decisions making sure that others' living expenses couldn't be met...that makes it worse.

Because it didn't matter. Not to him and not to his company.

That has to stop. Business leaders - at all levels from micros- and SMBs to multi-nationals - in all industries and sectors need to recognize that they have a greater responsibility to society than just making their businesses a success.

That shareholders are societal stakeholders, too - and that the other stakeholders who don't hold shares are directly and immediately impacted by the financial and other decisions that executives and board members make.

There's nothing wrong with making money. In fact, there's nothing wrong with making lots of money if that's what you want to do.

But this is more. This is a business industry-driven social change that looks beyond the next day's profits or next quarter's analyst meeting and recognizes that there really is such a thing as a greater good that business - more than any other entity - is designed to achieve.

Do that. Look at the decisions you make - from employee benefits to environmental impact and beyond - to see exactly what impact you and your business are making on your world every day.

Then make it better.
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Reputation: Why It Matters and How You Can Manage It (CIMA original version - I'll let you know when the update is live)
Reputation and Profits: The "Good Corporate Citizenship" Question (llk)

Reputation and Profits: The "Good Corporate Citizenship" Question

In the world of Buzzword Bingo or your standard corporate blah-blah-blah, one of the favorite expressions that marketing and PR folks like to use for their clients - especially their Big Boy clients - is that they're "good corporate citizens."

Just so you know how 'true' that is, Enron was one. Their marketing people said so.

It's an interesting question, though. What, exactly, is "good corporate citizenship"? What do you have to do to be a "good corporate citizen"? And why should you bother?

The reason why you - and I mean you, personally - should bother is because it's all about your reputation. Your image in the larger society in which you operate - whether you're the local dry cleaner or a global player - is greatly impacted by how you're perceived to treat the area and people in which your organization exists.

But, you say, we're a Big Boy multi-national? We're everyplace. How are we supposed to really do the "good corporate citizen" thing...and why should we?

Take a moment and think about Jack Welch, the so-called "legendary" former CEO of General Electric.

Did he accomplish amazing things in his company? Yes. Did he create shareholder value that exceeded anyone's dreams? Yes.

Did he, by fighting regulators for over 10 years after it was found that GE was polluting the Hudson River with the cancer causing agents, PCBs, not only put the population of the area but his company and its reputation at risk...as well as taint his own reputation? Yes to that, too.

So much for good corporate citizenship and the renowned Mr. Welch. Even now, over a decade later, when Jack Welch puts himself forward, someone remembers the Hudson and what he didn't do.

It's a good thing for GE that Mr. Welch's successor, Jeff Immelt, understood and acted upon the good image and good business of being a "good corporate citizen" - because he turned around the hit that GE's reputation took, both locally and globally. His smart decisions and 'green' strategy, put them back on track to be a trusted partner and corporate provider.

But it doesn't take a giant effort like GE's to make the "good corporate citizen" difference. You achieve just as big - if not bigger - gains by simply showing your support in your local area.

And for that, let's look at Larry Ellison, yet another "legendary" CEO - who founded and runs Oracle.

Ellison's reputation is as a near wild man - and he seems to thrive on it.

That's okay, because his company does things like support the local community where they're headquartered by being a major sponsor of a money-raising effort to ensure that music continues to be taught in the schools.

From the locals' perspective, that makes Oracle a good company. What that turns into, for all the IT managers, business executives and SMB owners whose kids go to those schools, is that Oracle becomes a preferred provider.

What does this mean for you?

It means it's time to start taking your role as a "good corporate citizen" seriously. It's time to go beyond using the pretty words and put your money where your marketing mouthpieces are saying you are.

It doesn't take a lot - but it does take a decision. Your decision.

What do you want your and your company's legacy to be? How do you want to be seen now and in the future?

More importantly, how do you want to use your good corporate citizenship - your investment in the betterment of society through business - to make a difference in people's lives...and your company's profits...now?

It's time to do something different. Business isn't only about profits. In fact, in your company and on the larger scale, profits are simply there as fuel for growth. Yours and society's.

Be a good corporate citizen by doing real things that make a difference. A real difference.

That's what you'll be remembered for - even as everyone who sees what you're doing make their decision to buy what you have to offer now.