I’m at a conference that is discussing the lessons learned by the financial crisis. In terms of the approach required to stimulate recovery there are lots of the usual words being bandied around: “tighter regulation”, “performance related bonuses for bankers” and so on; what is of most interest to me, however, is the discussion of the behaviours required to navigate out way out of this mess, rather than the policies per se.
What’s the difference, you might ask? I believe that the bad policies and lack of regulatory rigour is the symptom of the attitudinal flaws that were endemic in the boom times across Europe and also in the US; so therefore changing the predominant mindsets in business to those of responsibility, accountability, holism and social consciousness is what is needed (and is in some cases already happening) that shall bring about a critical mass of market choices that changes the face of business. I especially liked the view expressed by one of the pannellists that they are merely a ‘custodian’ of their company, and this is a mindset that they ensure is proliferated throughout the organisation in terms of helping people take the long view over making quick and easy cash at the expense of people and the environment.
I attended the morning session on corporate responsibility where there was a conversation thread that referred to the change from a “tell me” culture to a “show me” culture in terms of how stakeholders interrelate with multinational corporations. I know that for me the increasing accessibility of company information on social networks has been a catalyst of the “show me” trend.
The session also brought to light the comms challenge that multinationals face when they do go out with some CSR news in terms of responses from stakeholders and the general public: 1) The assumption of a white or greenwash being at play 2) If the company passes the ‘washing’ test, then there’s the issue of whether they’re doing enough, and then 3) The pointing out of other places in the business where CSR should be applied immediately. Now while those responses are valid, if you’re a CEO, you may not want to deal with these questions in quick succession, due to the amount of change and resources that resolving them demands. And that assumes that you know those questions are being asked by your stakeholders in the first place. It is a well-worn story that many businesses still avoid social media for fear of what they might find. At the risk of being extremely biased here as a digital PR consultant, it’s equally well worn to say that it’s the unknown unknowns that tend to cause the biggest issues in the longer term.