Is your company's value proposition aligned with its values? Do you even know what your company's values are or why you articulated them in the first place if you did? Have you talked yourself out of asking these questions because you are too busy and trust the best intentions of your team and your company's leadership? Expectations have changed and your thinking has too. Time to take another look.
A major survey says that three out of four companies now think sustainability has to be a core element of strategy. And don't think this is just about the green team. Large companies are relying increasingly on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out by the United Nations in 2015 to encourage corporate action on big topics like global poverty, health, education, water quality, climate change, gender equality and social justice just to name a few.
The survey, released in September of 2018 by BSR, the formidable global non-profit that convenes and consults on business and social responsibility, polled hundreds of companies on their usage of the widely acclaimed and adopted framework known as SDGs. Two of the survey's key findings (complete results at BSR.org) are that [c]orporate integrity and diversity and inclusion are top priorities for sustainability efforts and that "[c]limate change and human rights remain in the top four sustainability priority issues."
The survey also found, however, that "41 percent of companies report no change in their approach to women’s empowerment issues, despite mass social attention through movements like #MeToo" and that "[c]ompanies regard AI and disruptive tech, data security, and climate change as important megatrends, but less so the resulting economic inequality and political instability that cascades down as a result."
Most of us have little visibility into the decision-making process of a global corporation never mind the world outside our own team even in a smaller company. But for those who do have a leadership role to play, or even for those daring enough to ask the hard questions, consider simply asking whether what you do as a business is aligned with what you stand for as people, or as a company. Start with questions like the following (and this is me talking, not BSR):
What is the positive impact of our biggest business wins of the year, and for whom other than our shareholders?
What parties may have been negatively affected by our biggest wins, and where will they turn to address their adversity? Does their continued losing out in this manner have an impact on our ability to stay on our desired path as a business?
Would operating in a manner that mitigated the negative effects have been possible?
And if so, would doing so have created any positive benefits to our stakeholders or to our company? Do we even have the skills and tools necessary to ask these questions or to communicate about the answers with our stakeholders?
Another way into the process of aligning a company's value proposition and its values is articulated elegantly by an executive with one Emblem Strategic client. He runs one of the most high performing territories for a rapidly growing global company. To paraphrase, his philosophy is to ask 'what is the most pressing issue that the city we are located in is trying collectively to overcome?' and to align locally with making a meaningful contribution to that effort through the way the company operates. What better way is there to demonstrate that your company stands by its professed commitment to its community?
Again paraphrasing his bottom line: 'When a city makes meaningful progress toward its goal, and we are understood to be an authentic and useful part of the formula, there will inevitably be great value created for our business and our partners as well.'
Food for thought. Worth chewing on along with all the other holiday goodness on your plate over the next couple of weeks whether you are with a Fortune 50 company or working in a much smaller enterprise. Time to get your SDGs together.
Andy Tarsy is founder and principal of Emblem Strategic.