Public trust in government has been steadily eroding since early 2000. Today, only one in five Americans trust the government “to do the right thing just about always or most of the time.” And as trust in government continues to diminish, people are starting to turn to businesses to fill the gap, looking to them to focus on “doing good” as well as supporting them in difficult times.
Patagonia, famed for its sustainable clothing and green ethos, recently announced that all of the business’s profits will go to organizations that are fighting the climate crisis. A bold move by the brand that has made its name as a supporter of the environment – in 2018, stating it was “in business to save our home planet.” That is the ultimate display of “doing good.” But not all businesses are in the position to make such a bold move.
So then, what is “doing good” when it comes to business? How can companies define and quantify the impact of their business operations in terms of sustainability, all the while ensuring the future of their business in times of economic stress?
The B Corp Playbook
B Corps, for example, are already on a path that can support a business during a challenging period – a move away from the “boom and bust” model and a pivot towards one that is sustainable in every sense of the word for clients, partners, and employees. Driven by these certified B Corps (such as aforementioned Patagonia), the B Economy focuses on the ‘triple-bottom-line’ of business, social, and environmental sustainability.
Sustainable growth lies at the heart of this ‘triple-bottom-line’ strategy, which focuses on achieving profitability while remaining cognizant of the needs of one’s own people – and humanity at large – as well as the environmental cost of doing business.
As a bonus, such companies also find themselves more capable of navigating the turbulent waters brought on by negative macroeconomic factors. By their very nature, B Corps possess a business plan that can support the organization during challenging times – a significant difference from the ‘boom and bust’ model of yesteryear. B Corps possesses a rulebook that focuses on resilient, sustainable revenue streams, coupled with empathetic leadership and care for the planet. This, in turn, leads to greater confidence and trust from your team and a clear indication that you are looking to “do good.”
Building resilience and trust at home
It’s a well-established fact that your employees and people are your best ambassadors. It’s pointless setting about making an ESG (environmental, social, governance) rulebook if it doesn’t begin at home. This is especially so in tough economic times when people look to their employers for stability. For businesses, stability means maintaining resilient revenue streams and focusing on the ‘now’ to prepare for pressure on the bottom line. This means being super clear on what is important in the present while not losing sight of investment for the future.
But alongside maintaining business stability and doing your best as an organization to offset the environmental impact of doing business, it is essential that you also look inwards to ensure your organization’s values are deeply embedded on a cultural level. This means your Corporate Social Responsibility must first and foremost begin with your own people.
Measure your organization’s economic responsibility, which entails making financial decisions that prioritize doing good, not just making more money. It also means measuring jobs added, local hiring practices, and promotion structures. Also, try, insofar as possible, to align your business objectives with your people’s values. Keeping in mind the values of your people – and in turn, your organization – when taking on new business or projects demonstrates tangible convictions. Communication is key. And with that open and transparent communication comes trust.
Rethinking Your Data Mindset
Outside of aligning with people’s values, you need to ensure that you are making the ‘right decisions’ for your business. This is where better use of data can make all the difference, and there is no better time to invest in your data strategy. A coherent strategy can provide insights that dramatically reduce time to gather actionable insights and, as a result, make better, faster, and fewer decisions as businesses.
This strategy means treating data not as a project but as a product that is accessible, discernible, and usable for everyone, no matter their discipline. In short, rethinking how your organization looks at the value of data and adopting a data-as-a-product (DaaP) mindset – making it available to anyone with a specific problem to solve. And by making this data and insight available to everyone, you are weaving end-to-end into the very fabric of your company culture. The Product Owners, who are creating these data lead products, are caring about the outcomes for all data users and carry a request through to the final product to achieve them. Before, this was just the domain of the data teams and the digital natives within businesses. Companies that cut innovation during a downturn will take longer to bounce back. But by the same token, not everybody can be a Patagonia. However, looking to “do good” at a time of economical difficulty, businesses not only create a sense of trust amongst the workforce but also with customers. In turn, that will lead to loyalty and retention – bringing in vital revenue. It all comes down to creating the right culture, investing in the right technologies, and having transparent conversations. Get that right, and not only will you be able to navigate difficult economic waters, but do so while retaining the trust of your people.