The world of corporate social responsibility is changing. In a marked shift from the past, businesses can no longer just focus on making a profit, they are also expected to support and advance social and environmental causes.
Progress is good, especially for people and the planet. But the speed at which businesses are becoming vocal about their values may have the pubic questioning their motives. According to a global study launched in June, 81% of consumers said they consider brand trust in their purchasing decisions, but only 34% actually trust the brands they buy from. And 53% of consumers think brands “trust wash,” or aren’t as committed to the causes as they claim to be.
In this climate of social change, businesses are left wondering how to speak about their sustainability efforts, their purpose, and their good work. Companies worry: Will people judge us for not having made a commitment to sustainability sooner? Will they think we are woke-washing? Will investors think we are taking our eye off the bottom line? If we know we are part of the problem, can we also try to improve the situation or will we be judged because we aren’t perfect?
Despite these fears, it is important that companies communicate their values – for both the good of their company and the conscious capitalism / B Corp movements as a whole. And the more candor they use when making values statements, the more effective their messaging will be in boosting, rather than hindering, the public’s positive perception of their brand.
Companies need to admit to being works in progress and be transparent about their thought processes. It’s not a secret that they constantly need to contend with the ultimate bottom line – profit – amidst social responsibilities. If their industry is inherently part of the problem their social impact programs attempt to fix, this should be recognized publicly. If the company addresses this dichotomy themselves, they save themselves from criticism from journalists and the public further down the road.
Staying silent about values and sustainability efforts is no longer an option for companies. The less they say about their goals, efforts, and decision-making process regarding social impact, the more vulnerable they are to a taking a hit in public opinion. If done correctly – with honestly and transparency – a company’s communication strategy can enhance public perception and profit.