Be consistent about your positive impact
Help your stakeholders to understand, trust and strengthen your organization
Reading time: 4 minutes.
Did your organization communicate their ambition to help our planet and society? You can show that this ambition is core to the organization by being straightforward, visible and consistent about your positive impact. As a result, you will help your stakeholders to understand, trust and strengthen your organization.
In contrast, stakeholders will be confused and alienated by company’s commitments and behaviors that can be deemed intermittent, arbitrary, incongruous or perhaps even opportunistic.
This post is part of a series about technology and organizational positive impact
- A guide to organizational positive impact, tech edition
- Doing good drives profitability
- Major events and big statements
- Be consistent about your positive impact
- A strong purpose proposition requires agility and resilience
- Agility and organizational complexity, beware of the present
- How to create positive impact with technology? Foster critical thinking
- Technology as an accelerator for positive impact
- Assess how technology shapes your organizational positive impact
- Reframe technology’s purpose and strengthen organizational alignment
It’s costly to be inconsistent
The National Basketball Association, the NBA, wants to expand and they see an opportunity in entering the Chinese market. A billion-dollar deal was signed. NBA teams would play off-season in China sponsored by Chinese firms. Television rights to NBA’s season games where sold. But then early October 2019 a general manager of an NBA team posted a message in support of protests in Honk Kong. China threatened to rip-up the deal.
Forced to respond, the NBA had to navigate between an emerging and their traditional American home market. This has proven to be very difficult. The result is a broken partnership and a financial loss that is, by an estimation of the NBA in February 2020, “probably less than $400 million”. What’s considered as a positive action in one country, might be considered as an attack on one’s values and aspirations in another.
Choosing a wider lens
The “customer is king” mantra no longer works. Instead, consciously define your own direction. And align the aspirational, strategic and operational level. Start top-down. Formulate your core values and purpose proposition using input from all levels and selected stakeholders. Then go bottom-up. Empower your organization to translate values and purpose into day to day actions.
It is also important to include all relevant stakeholders. Most importantly, make sure you reach beyond the usual suspects such as current shareholders, investors, customers, employees and suppliers. Include also future stakeholders and stakeholders that are indirectly one way or the other linked to your value chain/proposition. This helps to ensure a more systemic approach. The broader the lens, the more likely you’ll find a new path to jointly drive value.
Rubicon, using technology to optimize collaboration and end waste
Rubicon is a good example of applying a wide lens, providing consistency and having a positive impact. Rubicon’s mission is to end waste, in all of its forms. Because, as they notice, waste is unsightly, dangerous and expensive.
Their main tool is technology. Rubicon provides digital waste, recycling, and smart city solutions.
Another key success factor is collaboration. Rubicon helps their partners find economic value in their waste streams together. And in the process, facilitate and advance innovation to further waste reduction.
For instance, by connecting fast-casual restaurant chain Chipotle to a startup specializing in plastics recycling. Together, a process was developed to convert single-use gloves into a high-quality resin. This resin is used to manufacture garbage can liners. During the last 9 months of 2019 this process was put to the test in a pilot program that ran in 25 locations. During the pilot more than 625,000 gloves were recycled that otherwise would have been disposed of in a landfill. Chipotle plans to expand the program to all of its 2.580 locations.
Rubicon also shows consistency beyond their products. For example, by offering in-office composting. Since 2017, their Atlanta headquarters has diverted 28,147 pounds of food waste from the landfill, creating 7,037 pounds of compost. They also tick positive impact boxes outside the waste domain with actions such as paying 100% of health insurance premiums.
Patagonia, going above and beyond
Another company to turn to for inspiration is Patagonia, arguably the ultimate example of an activist company. Consistent to the core. They advocate for the protection of the natural environment, for increased awareness about how profits and losses are directly linked to Earth’s health and for a sustainable transformation of the industrial model.
Patagonia has managed to deliver on its activist ambition. Since 1985, they have pledged 1% of sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment. In 2002 they co-created a non-profit corporation to encourage other businesses to do the same. Since then, that corporation has grown to over 2,700 business members.
Patagonia is also consistent in marketing their products. In 2011 they ran an ad in The New York Times on Black Friday with a headline that read “Don’t Buy This Jacket” accompanied by a photo of one of their jackets and text explaining the need to address the issue of consumerism.
In 2016 Patagonia donated 100 percent of global Black Friday sales from their stores and website. Total sales accumulated to 10 million US dollars. This money went to grassroots organizations, working in local communities to protect air, water and soil for future generations.
Consistency is key
Patagonia’s and Rubicon’s actions aren’t random. They are well-thought-out and consistent. Their choices and actions have become part of their organization’s DNA. Leading to loyal and supportive stakeholders that understand how they can individually contribute to their mission.
Being consistent about your positive impact is key for a strong, resilient purpose proposition. So is an agile mindset. Read more about that in the next post, “A strong purpose proposition requires agility and resilience”. You’ll find my posts and more at SogetiLabs.
Consistency in the wide sense of the word
A strong purpose proposition touches everything your company does. Whether it’s the CEO launching a new product or a barista serving a customer. Whether it’s the Tokyo or the London branch. Online or offline. A billboard or annual financial report. Today or next year. Your stakeholders expect that your purpose proposition shows itself and does so in a consistent manner. And consistent in a wide sense of the word. So, over time, geographically, through different organizational levels and through different points of contact.
For stakeholders to see consistency, you actually have to be consistent. Therefore, it’s important to drive your own course. Manage expectations and prepare your organization and stakeholders for the next normal. Be vocal about your “why”, set the right fundaments and make that part of your organization’s DNA.
For stakeholders to see consistency, you have to show your consistency and let it speak for itself. So, be sure to display and celebrate your accomplishments. Also, stay ambitious and keep moving your goals to ensure you are consistently having a positive impact.
When selecting stakeholders to include in your purpose proposition, you might want to take a decision on including competitors. Should you be good to your competition? Or should you smash and obliterate them? And if so, are there red lines in your actions?
For some selected stakeholders you want to go beyond inclusion. You want to collaborate to ensure successful execution and to further optimize positive impact. Involve your best and brightest employees on both an executive and technical level. The change will never happen to go alone or going mediocre.
Unilever, providing visible consistency
A good example of an organization providing consistency in a visible manner is Unilever. During the Covid-19 crisis, Unilever donated €100m worth of soap, sanitizer, bleach and food. Unilever shared this news via a press release. Part of the press release is a statement of the CEO, Alan Jope. The first two lines are: “We are deeply saddened by the terrible impact that coronavirus is wreaking on lives and livelihoods everywhere. The world is facing its greatest trial in decades”. The press release and the donation are tightly aligned with Unilever’s purpose proposition which is “a new way of doing business – one that delivers growth by serving society and the planet”.
Learn more about the non-profit organization co-founded by Patagonia.
For more information on Rubicon, you could read their Environmental, Social and Governance report (ESG), entitled: “Toward a future without waste”.
If you want to find organizations with a positive impact in your own region or industry, you could use the B Corp directory.
About Léon de Bakker
Léon leads digital transformations with a core focus on future-proofing organizations and putting purpose into action. Aligning teams, business and technology across all layers of the organization and its key stakeholders with a wide lens and an open mindset. He studied business economics, has technology experience since 2001 and has supported organizations with their transformation journeys since 2003. Léon is passionate about all that is tech, new gadgets and visual design. Currently, Léon is working on connecting purpose and technology as key drivers for organizational change. He’s exploring innovative ways to redefine and remeasure growth and success in a world in urgent need of more businesses moving positive impact front and center.
More on Léon de Bakker.