Greed—Going, Going, Gone?
Greed is a four-letter word in today’s society. Which is not to say that’s its gone away, only that it is no longer a mantra to live or run a company by. So with a nod to Michael Douglas’ amazing portrayal of Gordon Gecko, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is NOT good. Greed is NOT right. Greed NO LONGER works.”
Corporate Social Responsibility is not a passing phase of the ‘millennials’; almost two-thirds of corporate CEOs see CSR as an integral part of corporate strategy, not an ‘add-on’ corporate philanthropy program. Consider that in four short years (2011-2015) the number of Fortune 500 companies that published a corporate responsibility or sustainability report QUADRUPLED, from 20 to 80 percent. As that number edges forward to 100%, there is no discounting the importance of doing good.
Business has a responsibility to its employees, stockholders, and the economy to maximize profits; however, it is no longer acceptable to do that at the expense of the environment and social welfare. The Cone Communications CSR Study for 2017 starts by saying that this is the year that corporate social responsibility (CSR) was redefined. Companies must now share not only what they stand for, but what they stand up for (see our recent blog post). Unilever’s CEO, Paul Polman, has gone so far as to describe his company as “the world’s biggest” non-government organization, noting, “The main thing we’re trying to do is give every brand we sell… a social purpose.”
What’s behind this paradigm shift? As we’ve discussed previously, the largest portion of the consumer market is now the Millennials and the generation coming up behind them. Today’s youth want to make the world a ‘better place, ’ and they support that philosophy with their purchasing dollars. 75% of this group believe that corporations should address the needs of society as part of creating economic value. Its not only the services and goods they buy, its just as important whom they buy them from, to them brands are part of the identity of who they are, their values and their place in the world. In this era of lack of trust in government, banking systems, and business, as a society that has become increasing intolerant of inequality, greed and excess are not acceptable.
As part of today’s education model students are learning at a younger age to engage with the community and ‘give back’; most high schools require community service hours as a graduation requirement. Rather than huge
transfers of wealth from one generation to another, they see billionaires like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg joining Warren Buffet to ‘give-away’ half of their acquired wealth. More retailers are closing on Black Friday and other holidays to encourage employees to spend time with their families. Socially responsible businesses are building positive, trustworthy brands.
As the next Generation comes forward we will see consumers demand more of the businesses they patronize, ‘doing well by doing good’ may well become the mantra of successful businesses. These companies will attract the best talent, have greater valuations and enjoy a position of trusted social business partner. The word philanthropy’s Greek root translates as ‘mankind-loving’ – what better way to show a love of mankind than by making it an integral part of the way you do business.