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Whether you’re a solo-preneur or a Fortune 10 company, your clients and customers want you to take a stand – and to really live the stand you take.
For better or worse, the pandemic has “opened the kimono” and shown the true colors of companies and leaders who truly do or do not walk the walk.
Barbra Anderson and Janet Craig have seen the good, bad and ugly, and share how and why CSR is vital to an organization’s success, even during a pandemic.
Find Barbra and Janet at Destination Better, their consultancy that helps make CSR easy for organizations. Check out their podcast, Creating Responsible Companies wherever podcasts are available, like iTunes and Stitcher and Spotify — and on YouTube!
Janet Craig: 62% of consumers want companies to take a stand on relevant issues like sustainability, transparency, fair employment practices. Brands are owned by all those people that are out there talking about their company and making decisions based on what they see and it influences who they’re going to work for and do business with. If you state your purpose, they’re going to be out there digging to be sure that you’re actually living that purpose.
Andi Graham: Hi there and welcome to episode six of Walk the Walk, a podcast for entrepreneurs running values based businesses. I’m your host, Andi Graham. I’m the CEO at Big Sea, a digital agency that produces marketing that matters. Today on the podcast I am talking with Janet Craig and Barbara Anderson from Destination Better.
Destination Better is a consultancy that focuses on making corporate social responsibility easy, CSR they call it. To do so they equip, empower, and encourage business leaders, CSR professionals, and everyday superheroes with uncomplicated tools to create more socially, environmentally responsible companies. Janet and Barbara worked with very large companies like fortune 10 companies and also with solopreneurs and small and medium sized businesses to help them align their behaviors and their corporate social responsibility programs with their values. So they really help them walk the walk. That is their true job. And so I thought it was really interesting to talk to them about the alignment of those values with the things that corporations are doing and then also some of the ways that those things are not aligned, especially things that have become clear during this time of pandemic. And so I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did.
Barbara and Janet, thank you guys so much for being on my podcast today. It’s great to see you.
Barbra Anderson: It’s great to be a part of this. Thanks Andi.
Andi Graham: Yeah. Janet and I have known each other for quite some time and it’s been really fun watching the trajectory of just the change in career and where things are going. I’m just so interested in what you all are doing right now. So talk to me about Destination Better.
Janet Craig: So Andi, when you and I worked together it was my second or third hit of companies should be doing right things. When you and I worked together, we were working on some client work that had some responsible business practices inside of it.
And I thought it was really interesting and I had just come away from another corporate role where they were kind of getting slammed with environmental responsibility and it was kind of almost this new thing. People really wanted to know and the company wasn’t in a position to respond as quickly as it could have. So Barbara and I both have backgrounds in corporate and just kind of have come along on this path to the why it is really, really valuable for a company to take a look at their social and environmental impacts.
They’re more profitable when they do so, and they’re managed. It sounds a little nebulous, but I promise it works. And then also taking a look at how they are treating outside their company, their communities in which they operate. And also the employees that are inside their companies. So not only looking at what the company is doing and no matter what the industry is, we have this joke, everybody flushes the toilet and turns on the light. So everybody’s using energy and water somewhere.
Most people are hiring people, even though we have technology and software based businesses, there are humans inside that are doing these jobs, right? So companies have environmental and social impacts and if you manage them better, then you’re going to be more profitable and people are just generally going to like you more. So Barbara and I have a background in helping companies create these strategies around really discovering what your environmental and social impacts are and then putting together the practices and policies and procedures, that’s the governance part of it.
So that companies can manage their blind spots and also capitalize on the opportunities that they have to attract and retain that great client or those great…. Well, not only great clients and long-term customers, but also the best possible talent they have.
And so we really enjoy doing this work. We feel like we are more like a Switzerland where we can work with companies and say, “Hey, look, this is what’s going on in the mega marketplace, in the world. This is what’s going on in your industry, this is what’s going on in your company. And these are things that you should be aware of.” And then we help them create a strategy all the way down to communications and how they can responsibly kind of manage their company and then manage the story that’s being told. Barbra [inaudible 00:05:14].
Barbra Anderson: No, that’s right Janet. So everything from strategy, looking at really the company from the 10,000 foot level and what’s taking place in the industry to develop the strategy. And one thing that we’re passionate about is the communications of that.
So internally and externally. Internally, it’s just such a gold mine to engage employees and make sure that they’re fully aware of the company’s purpose, what actions they’re taking environmentally, socially, and also governance. We kind of define corporate social responsibility as environment, social, and governance. So as Janet said, the environment piece like what actions are you taking to conserve your natural resources as well as how are you preparing for environmental, let’s say catastrophes like storms and weather events. And then the social piece internally and externally and the governance, which Janet’s really kind of a national expert on that. In terms of how the company reports on it, their board of directors, the diversity of that.
So it’s a lot of times when we think about corporate social responsibility or CSR, it’s thought of as kind of like, oh, what kind of a heart walk are we going to do this week? Or how our employees giving when it’s really so much more? It’s tightly embedded in the company’s strategy and tied to profitability. And we can share all kinds of studies that show especially when there’s dips in the market, that the dip isn’t quite as severe for those companies who do manage their environment, social, and governance. So we work for everything from small companies up to the fortune 10. It’s one of our long standing clients. And also governments. We’ve worked with in terms of stakeholder engagement is such a big piece of CSR is engaging your stakeholders which we’ll talk a little bit more about Andi.
Andi Graham: Oh that’s interesting. Yeah, I didn’t consider that piece of it. And then I was going to ask you mentioned small companies. How do you work with small companies to.. Think about us, we’re 21 people. How would you help us?
I’ve mentioned to you before, we do all these things, right? Our team volunteer and we have these group volunteer outings and we give them time to do that. We pay them for their time to do that, but we also do all these things around the office et cetera, et cetera. So we can start ourselves very good stewards of our environment and our social responsibility.
Do you work with companies of our size to help us formalize that process? What does that look like?
Janet Craig: We do. We believe that if you start a company and I think people generally think about companies that are large. In the fortune 500 that have these really great programs and we don’t like it to be called a program because it should be built into your DNA, right? And so if you build it into your DNA as you have Andi, from the very, very, very beginning, there are tons of really great examples of that. Like LÄRABARs and some other companies that built it into their DNA from the very beginning. So it’s never a question, it’s never a, “Oh gosh, we really need to do this.” And all it does is just create exponential value for the company.
Within the fortune 500 themselves, no, that’s not true. The S&P 500, 82% of the S&P 500 value is in intangible assets, 82%. That is what’s going on with them socially and environmentally and reputation, intellectual property, innovation, things like that. So if you think about that on a large scale and you just scale it down to a small and medium business, it’s the same thing. A lot of our companies are built on the intellectual property of the people like yours. Creative intellectuals, straight together strategizing and creating neat strategies and things like that for your clients that way over deliver. But so most of the value of that product is you can’t touch it. It’s not a machine making a thing. And so when we look at that and we scale it down to a small and medium business, it’s customer relationships. It’s what are you doing to innovatively deliver your goods and services?
What are you doing to make sure that you are establishing a good connection with the five generations that are in your workplace right now? Who all have different values. They all read, play content in different places. They all consume content differently.
And so baking it in and just being a human as you’re starting your company has exponential value as you grow. And it isn’t always just about… It’s just not for big businesses. It’s for everyone, whether it’s really small and you’re just going out to your local utility and getting a free energy audit. And starting there, starting with not using single use plastics, doing great volunteering to bond together. Just the way that you communicate out. It’s the same thing large companies are doing. We just do it on a smaller scale.
Andi Graham: It’s interesting.
Barbra Anderson: Yeah. I could add too that the entrepreneurs started, every large company started as a small company. Like you often say Janet.
Andi Graham: That’s true.
Barbra Anderson: And if you think about starting a company, whether you have your eye on perhaps someday doing an IPO and selling it. I mean that if it’s embedded into the company from the start that’s a value. But also if you think about it as companies grow larger and you’ve got this begged in to the very beginning of your company, you don’t have to shift. When you get larger like, “Oh, we’re bigger now. We’ve got to be something.” Whereas if it’s in from the beginning and we know the backbone of the global economy is in small business, right? And so knowing that the talent is so much easier to attract when it’s clear what the company’s purpose is. And so the small entrepreneur can certainly attract talent a lot easier if it is transparent and authentic and what they’re doing is relevant to the company. Those are three key terms that we use.
Andi Graham: Transparent, authentic, and relevant to the parent company.
Barbra Anderson: That’s right, to the company. So transparent meaning are you saying what you’re really doing? The good and the bad and the ugly. And authentic not what we call green-washing, but actually saying what the company is doing. Be shared details. If you aren’t meeting an objective that you want to just share the plan that you have. If you aren’t hitting a mark site in the next 18 months, here are the actions that we’re going to take to get us there. And then relevant, Janet, you’re the one that loves to talk about relevancy to the company.
Janet Craig: Relevancy to the company is the difference between… Let’s take LÄRABAR. They have four or five ingredients in their bars. And so one of their relevant things that they would look at is traceability of ingredients, health and safety of the people that are actually consuming their product. Those kinds of things. That is not the same thing that a company that creates… I don’t know books would look at, right? So bookmakers or people that use a lot of paper are going to be looking at where did we source that pole? Was it from a responsibly managed forest? So those are the things that are relevant. There are industries and sectors that have been defined by this wonderful organization called Sustainability Accounting Standards Board. Some people call it SASB, S-A-S-B.
SASB breaks down sectors and industries and identifies, helps companies go and look and they’ve already pre-identified with multiple stakeholder engagement from investors and nonprofits and other peer companies. To say, look, these are the things that are within our sector. And then within our industry of things that may have, that are social, environmental and then those governance policies, practices, procedures that may have an impact on our business.
And so one of the first places we go when we’re working with a company is to the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board to just zero in very quickly on what those impacts look like. And they help us define and bring to light blind spots for our company. No matter the size. Doesn’t matter if you’re a fortune 10 or you were a company of 20. If you’re a services based business, there are things that are going to be common to you both.
So understanding what they are is relevancy because the last thing you want to do as a company, no matter the size, is talk about something that you’re doing that you think is great as a shiny object because something that’s actually relevant to your company over here, you’re not doing so well.
Millennials and Zs, which make up the majority of our workforce and our population, they’re going to go to some search and they’re going to figure out that you’re not doing what you said you were doing. Right? They’re going to wonder, why are you talking about the relevant thing topics of your company. And actually you’re talking about something that you’re trying to like sweep something under the rug and then you lose reputation. And that’s part of those, one of those intangible assets is that you don’t want to ding in your reputation because it takes forever as you know Andi, to pull that back up again. So relevancy is super key.
Andi Graham: So I’m curious when you start talking about those things. I’m thinking mostly about focus and how then do you help organizations focus on their purpose? I know just as an entrepreneur, I’m pulled in a thousand different directions by things I care about. There’s the arts and there’s pets and there’s animals and there’s the environment and there’s all of these things. And I just don’t know where to put my time and energy. And I think that’s one of the biggest things I struggle with as a small business owner is I want to support everybody. I would like to give us time and resources, but it’s not an endless font at this point. We’ve got to set some parameters. So how do you find people decide on that focus?
Barbra Anderson: Right. That’s a really great question Andi. And the mission of our company, Destination Better is to make the world a better place, one responsible company at a time. And we think about, let’s use Big Sea for example. So we call it a magic intersection. It’s like, what is it that the community needs most within your span of influence, let’s say in St. Petersburg, and I know you’ve got clients all around the world. But let’s say where your employees are mostly based. What is it that the community needs most and what can your firm uniquely provide in that situation?
So with Big Sea having tremendous expertise in communications and marketing and branding and the technologies that go behind that. What is it that your firm could provide? So I’ve seen a lot of like advertising agencies, and marketing firms, digital agencies. They’ll adopt, they’ll accept applications from nonprofit organizations that have a request. And then your team can pick maybe one or I’ve seen there’s an agency that I’m familiar with that one weekend, three day weekend a year, all of the employees come together and they each team, say three or four in a team takes a nonprofit.
They build out their messaging strategy, their branding and they really do like a whole makeover. So that’s something that Big Sea can provide that we wouldn’t be able to provide. That’s incredible value as you know tens of thousands of dollars for these nonprofit organizations. It brings together your team as for collaboration. It helps to ramp up their skills, the teamwork of it, the pride in it. One thing that… Yeah, so I would just say that there’s a lot of examples, but it’s that magic intersection. What does the community most need and what is it that you can provide uniquely?
Andi Graham: I love that. So we did that this year. This is the first year we did it. We called it the Big Sea big grant and we gave out actually $60,000 worth of services to nonprofits, and we took two applicants. So we’re working with Champions for Children in Tampa and we’re doing a bunch of messaging strategy and web stuff for them. And then we’re working with the space foundation in Colorado Springs. They’re like the UN of space exploration and research and education. And so we’re doing a lot of, we’re helping them with the case for support and with the big capital campaign. So I love that you mentioned that, because that was kind of our idea of how do we filter out the hundreds of asks we get. And so we made an application process and we just said, okay, here’s your chance. This is the time of year you can apply.
And honestly it helps us say no a little bit more easily because we can’t do it all and I’d love to. We also give to a lot of other things. So that’s good. So from a cause perspective, do you think that’s good to find a cause to align behind? Or do you think it’s just… Because like I said, we support the arts and space exploration and we work with metropolitan ministries and Champions for Children and so we’re supporting a huge variety of different causes per se. But I’ve heard a lot of times CSR is sometimes focused on like, okay, we really deal with a lot of children’s charities and causes and we really focus on animal cruelty or whatever those things are. Or it doesn’t matter?
Barbra Anderson: So I would say in addition to what your community needs most to engage your stakeholders, then think about what’s most important to your customers into your team members. And I would actually invert those and say what’s most important to your team members? Because I always think of all the stakeholders that there are, like if you say a business has a dozen stakeholders. The government, the nonprofits in the community, their employees of all of those. Because I always figure 50% most important as your employees because they’re just so key to your success. But if you think about what is most important to them, what’s most meaningful? And it really, and there’s something that we say quite a bit is if it doesn’t add value to the business, don’t do it. It shouldn’t be just a one way give, it should be an interaction.
And so there’s even the company that I led, we were in a community where we were the largest employer of travel technology company. And we can’t give to the city, right? Like charitable. But we met with the city and said, okay, here’s what we’re really good at. We’re really good at innovation. We’re really good at environmental impacts. We’ve had a great wellness program as a company. And the city said, here’s what we’re really good at and here’s the things that we can do. And so it laid this amazing foundation for the company to be able to interact with the city and vice versa. So say for example, when we would have large employee fundraisers out on our lawn, we had several acres. The city brought in the bleachers from the elementary schools. We actually had pig races, but that’s [crosstalk 00:21:50].
Andi Graham: Oh my gosh.
Barbra Anderson: Yeah. And so they brought those in when we had government officials come in for human trafficking work. The local government officials came in and were very supportive and spoke highly on our behalf. When we rolled out a human trafficking initiative, we were able to partner with the local law enforcement and bring in organizations to train them and they shared their voice and the development of those programs.
So there’s always something that you can give. There’s a concept called signature program where you could actually brand it and then maybe within your industry you could bring together other organizations under the signature program that you would own. And so you might collaborate with other agencies to come in once a year to give back in that way. And then it shows you as a leader. It gives you brand value. And so there’s so many opportunities to get business value out of it. It might not just be financial.
Andi Graham: Yeah. I think that’s a sage piece of advice that I needed to hear, which was if I’m not getting some value for the business out of it, then it should not just be a one way transaction. Because I am frequently at dinners where I’m just pushing that thousand dollar button and I’m like, what is this bringing me in? What capacity is this helping my business? And I feel good about this but this should have been a personal thing and not whatever that is.
So I appreciate that advice. I need to think about those things more often. That’s important. So the business case is something I do want to dig into. This all sounds expensive and time consuming and especially coming from like a company like mine where we work on billable hours, it is, right? I can actually tick that. I can do the math on how much time my team is spending out in the community volunteering and how much I might’ve made if they were billing those hours. So what’s the business case for this? Why should we bother?
Janet Craig: I think that companies are so used to looking at straight up financial statements and looking at what’s on their balance sheet? What’s on their financial statements? What are our revenues look like? What about administrative costs? What are our operating costs?
A lot of the costs to companies are just not reflected in traditional financial statements. That’s where we are. We’re like, we’d look at financial statements that were actually created and we use accounting principles that were created pre-computer age, right? Investors want to know one of the top aspects that investors really want to know about. Well, I’m talking about institutional investors and although it’s applied to publicly held company, it can go to a tech startup too. One of the numbers that they want to know is what are you doing to attract and retain talent and what is your employee turnover?
Employee turnover does not show up as employee turnover on a financial statement. So Andi, if you had not done that and instead had turned over employees, which costs you one and a half to two times the annual cost of the total. The total annual cost of that employee does not their salary. Every year you would see, okay, volunteer programs cost me $5,000 this year. Active employee turnover would have been $300,000. Looks like a good ROI, right? It’s a no brainer.
Wow. We went out and we did this thing in the community or we gave back in a relevant manner to our community by helping these other nonprofits develop these strategies. Someone else sees that and they think, wow, look at this amazing program that they did. While I’m ticking through what I look for when I’m out there looking in the Big Sea versus someone else, I’m going to naturally go to the person who has a heart and who is doing things to help our fellow humans and businesses.
That’s just something and you cannot put a price on that from a reputational perspective on a financial statement. So we have to look beyond financial statements to look at ROI. And it goes back to those intangible things that I was talking about. Intellectual property, attraction and retention of talent. Those types of things. Strong customer relationships. What you’re doing to impact and build your reputation. They’re not going to show up on your financial statement until you’ve had a windfall of revenue based on all those things had happened before.
So sometimes when people ask me and Barbara, what do you guys do? I really don’t get it. So we say that we work in this invisible space that happens before stuff shows up on a financial statement, right? Good or bad. We don’t want clients to have an oopsie moment and go, gosh, we saw this blind spot, we kind of forgot about it and now we’ve got this lawsuit or something. Right? Or we’ve got an oil spill or we’ve got who knows what. Right? But if you also take a look at those invisible things that aren’t reflected on that financial statement, employee turnover, reputation, what are we really doing to make all these wonderful creative brains really get on fire every single day and feel good about what they’re doing? It’s a no brainer.
Barbra Anderson: Yeah. One thing that you referenced, Janet, is relationships and that really can’t be understated. A couple example of programs is for example the technology firm I was with. When we looked at what was the do an evaluation of what are some of the biggest risks to the company? At one point in the journey with the company it was recruiting talent inside the US. And so we had to go outside for technical talent outside the US. And the federal government was not fond of that and they put a cap on it. So usually by mid-February, starting in January, that cap was met. So what we did is we created, we looked at what the needs were for someone to become a professional in that site coding for example.
And it was grades four through six and it was pre-algebra readiness. And there’s a lot of data that shows if you can capture, if you can understand algebra, it sets you up for so many more great things in life, including college educations, just reasoning, higher order thinking skills. And so we have a program that was pre-algebra readiness training.
So we were growing our own, if you will. Right? That was kind of a long play of it. But our federal government relations to you and even local was able to say, “Hey look, we’re not just asking for exceptions. We’re investing in the US and trying to grow that on talent.” And the other thing, another program, when we did roll out a program we looked again at what are some of the biggest risks to the company or to the industry.
And one was human trafficking. And this is almost 10 years ago now. And nobody wanted to touch human trafficking because it was such a brand hot potato. They wanted to like walk and walks and things are already established. And fortunately the leadership, the company said, no, this is something we can do because we only had the consumer brand of the company was Travelocity, but 90% of the company was really B2B.
And so we were able to do that in terms of our brand. Well, what that did when we developed some programs to educate, advocate, and collaborate to end human trafficking within the travel industry. It opened so many doors. It allowed us to get on industry conferences and make presentations about the cause. It allowed us open doors at the government level because we were able to say, we want to come in and talk about bending human trafficking.
It wasn’t about the company, right? But it fostered those relationships. The employees just went bananas over doing something that really mattered. They wanted to take that training into their community and their churches and that kind of thing. And we educated our employees. We had them become brand ambassadors for it. And so it opened all of these other intangible relationships that just went for miles and miles. And we even had candidates that would come to the company and say, I’ve read about what you guys do in the community, but do you really do that? Is this really something the company is really behind it. Because they experienced so many companies where it’s kind of lipstick on it that they really aren’t doing things.
Janet Craig: There’s another really great example of a company that’s headquartered in our area. It’s Sykes Enterprises. Sykes is a company who works in around the globe as a BPO, business process outsourcing, but for customer service. And so they have some operations in Latin America and specific to Costa Rica, they were having a really hard time finding candidates that could pass their English language test. So they started a nonprofit called Sykes Academy and they teach English, gives me goosebumps every time I tell the story. They teach English in the community so that they’re proficient enough to pass the test. They pass the test. So now they’ve gotten a better job than they would have because now they passed their English proficiency exam. Once they get into Sykes, they can also learn other languages.
They have access to something called Cisco Academy. So that they can get technology knowledge through Cisco. They track the percentage of the population that they have impacted since the beginning of it. They track how many jobs they’ve created in the community.
I believe now they’re starting to get like multiple generations that have been impacted. So just not only from one person who is coming into the company getting the education they need to pass their English proficiency exam, but what it’s doing to impact their family members who also can now speak better English to help them just communicate better. To get a job that will allow… Because bilingual jobs are awesome to have. I’m not bilingual. I wish I was. Everybody’s like, she’ll learn another language, right? But what they’ve done to impact that community is incredible. And it just took a couple of people going you know what? Why don’t we just teach the community how to speak English as a second language.
Barbra Anderson: And then they were able to fill those talent, those spaces that they had, right?
Janet Craig: That’s where they’re staying. They stay at the company. They stay at the company. And so what’s traditionally a really high turnover position is not, they are valued. They value the company that they work for. And just the culture inside that part of Sykes. It is everywhere within Sykes but especially there, it’s just that is invaluable and the impact they count on the community is just incredible.
And that’s something that many, many, many companies could do, who employee populations of people who do not speak English as a second language or need to increase their proficiency. It’s magic. It’s beautiful.
Andi Graham: And that’s a perfect example of walking the walk, right? Doing what you say you’re going to do even when it’s hard. Or you have to figure that, solve these problems. Who’s responsible for solving those types of problems? Who in the organization at Sykes looked down and said, “Oh, this is what’s going on. Let’s put this into place.” What type of a role is that?
Janet Craig: I think instead of looking at the role, although they do have specific roles for corporate responsibility inside Sykes and especially inside the Costa Rica operations. I think you have to step back one and say that is something that’s in the heart of most people’s humanity. The culture inside the company that allows someone the freedom to say, “I have an idea, I want to take it to leadership.” Leadership says, “Okay, I think we like this. Let’s start putting some legs under it and see if it’s actually something that’s a viable.”
But if you do not have a culture that allows for freedom of thought in out of the box, kind of such a solutions to problems. Whether it’s up and down your supply chain or whether it’s something that’s impacting your community and it goes back to that magic intersection that Barbra talked about. You have to have the culture in the company and create that safe space where people aren’t afraid to bring ideas.
There was an EOI report that came out last year that I talk about all the time. And they measured culture and it’s 51% or 52% of the value of the company. And then that leads back to the-
Andi Graham: That’s incredible.
Janet Craig: It’s incredible, right? So somewhere somebody said, that’s how I create this culture of innovation. Come to us with your ideas and let’s figure this thing out. Because most people innately are not going to think or have the courage to step up and go, “I have this idea, but I’m not sure who I should tell about it.” Well, if you have the culture of brilliant, bring your ideas and let’s do this and let’s figure it out, then that’s what you’re going to get.
Barbra Anderson: Yeah. There was actually a 2019 Porter Novelli Cone study on gen Z who are now ages 14 to 22. And over 90% of them said that they think that they can in 10 years’ time make tremendous differences, but they’re counting on their companies to take the lead.
And they said they’ll roll up their sleeves and do something, but they’re relying on their company to be the leaders. And so we loosely call them everyday superheroes and to empower individuals in your company. And Andi, it’s not just like a formal role, but if the purpose of the company is in place and it’s documented and this is the strategy and you’ve given enough room to breathe. And people take on causes and volunteer projects and fundraising within the scope of your strategy. It can really move mountains. And that’s one reason that Janet and I, we have our own podcast called Creating Responsible Companies because there’s so many ills in the world that need to be solved. And we firmly believe that companies have the resources and they have the technology and the manpower to really get things done. And so the largest percentage of the workforce, the millennials and gen Z are really almost only looking for companies that can allow them to take on social causes.
Andi Graham: And I listened to your podcast and I was listening to episode nine this morning while I went to the gym. I’m so happy to be back at the gym. You talked about a study from Accenture that was talking about the alignment of basically customer with the choices they’re making for corporate social responsibility. Can you talk to me a little bit about that? Just the alignment of, I think the just percentage of clients or customers who make choices based on being aligned with the company’s values seems so interesting to me.
And it was used a lot in like retail settings. We talk about Toms and we talk about Larabar and things like that. But it’s funny because we find that too, even in the service industry that there’s a million different insurance companies in the area who we could mark it for. But we aren’t aligned from a values perspective and integrity perspective with some of them. Right? We are with many others, but we have to find those little intangible alignments to make the magic happen I think.
Janet Craig: That is such an interesting perspective because Barbara and I have the same perspective for the companies that we work with. And I know we’re going to talk about Accenture, but I just want to make this kind of side note that if you want to just check the box on yeah, we have this thing called our CSR program. That’s fine. But that’s not what we’re about. That’s not what our company is about. And as much as we help companies create strategies, no matter the size. We work with solopreneur women all the way up to the fortune 10.
If you’re not aligned and we can’t work well together, and you think that if you just want this thing to just go, I just need to get some RFP. Caution, I need to win some more RFPs. I need to look good. Well, that is not what we’re about. And that’s not what this is about. This is a business opportunity. It is a way for you to get your business more relevant and aligned to what is actually happening out in the world. And investors want to know because they need to manage risk. As we talked about those risks don’t show up on financial statements, millennials and Zs make up the majority of the population.
They’re looking at this not only and this is what the Accenture report covered. Not only how they’re making their own consumer choices, but where they’re working and the companies that they are themselves investing in. And for them to see a company purpose and that purpose, which is yes aligned to the mission of the company should also be applied to every single thing that happens in that company. Whether it’s inside the company and it’s all their hiring and the culture, or it’s outside the company and how they apply their purpose to their community needs. And the innovation to solve problems up and down their supply chain. So the Accenture report was really interesting because it was a really large data sets. So 30,000 online responses, and it’s pretty fresh data. It was between August and October of 2018.
And 62% of consumers want companies to take a stand on relevant issues like sustainability, transparency, fair employment practices. And the other part of that study was it all of a sudden brands, which used to only they would advertise in a newspaper or they would advertise in the yellow pages, which most people listening to this podcast are like, “What the heck is a yellow page?” Right?
But they don’t own their brands anymore. Their brands are owned by all these people that are out there talking about their company and making decisions based on what they see. And it influences who they’re going to work for and do business with, and consume their products, and where they’re going to shop and things like that. So while company can have a purpose on the backside of that, I can guarantee you 100% and the study shows, if you state your purpose, they’re going to be out there digging to be sure that you’re actually living with purpose.
Barbra Anderson: Yeah. And the study’s called To Affinity and Beyond From Me to We: The Rise of the Purpose-Led Brand. And it is interesting in terms of the passion that people have for brands now, where it used to be a creative thing to take a stand on an issue. And now it’s really expected. And they do recommend three things in terms of what you can do as a company to engage your stakeholders. And one thing that Janet and I say all the time is that companies are doing great things. They just aren’t telling their story. And so it’s just critical to have a purpose as one thing, but to tell it for your social media, through your creating practices or your internal employee communications. That has to be something that is always front and center. And the three recommendations that Accenture came out of this study, the first is to be human, number one. And 64% consumers buying brands that actively communicate their purpose more attractive.
So think about what you are and aren’t doing in a few, haven’t a slip up. You have to say your start, sorry. The second is to be clear and authentic. I think people can see through the commercials that pull the heart strings, but don’t really have the data behind it. And as Janet said, especially the younger generations, they’re going to look up in fact check brands that make statements.
And then the last is to be creative and think about different ways that you as a company can communicate to your stakeholders. And one example we gave with Chobani and crowdsourcing and how they actually have a dedicated team that goes to events and throughout communities to taste their product. And so think about creative ways. It’s all about stakeholder engagement and they call it actually a whole ecosystem. If you think about your stakeholders and how they believe that people believe that they own your brand and they’ll stand up for you when they are behind you. And they’ll actual try to tear you down when they aren’t.
Andi Graham: It’s true. Yeah, they’re looking for a reason to pounce always. Right? And so you have to walk the walk and you have to live with integrity. And from is the larger your organization gets the harder that is to control. We talked yesterday a little bit about the brand and how… We do branding for companies all the time and we talk. We can design you a logo, but that’s not a brand, that’s a design asset. And so your brand doesn’t live in the fonts that we choose and the colors that we choose. All those things help tell a story, but that story is owned by the people receiving it.
And so you have to understand that your brand belongs in other people’s heads. And so you can only influence that in so many different ways. And so you’re going to influence positively and negatively, and you want to control as much of that as you can. And I would think having a great corporate social responsibility program would help that in a major way. So, okay. The one thing I could talk to you guys forever about this stuff, there is so much to unpack with all of this, but I’m really curious about what’s going on in the world right now. Because we have seen the very best and the very worst of corporate responsibility happening.
Just terrible people being forced to work in very unsanitary and unsafe conditions, entire meat packing plants, getting infected because they’re forced to not adhere to the guidelines. And then the very best of employers canceling their salaries and keeping everybody on staff, even when they couldn’t. All kinds of different, really interesting things. How are you seeing the essence of corporate social responsibility in the middle of a pandemic?
Barbra Anderson: We talked about walk the walk. Right.
Andi Graham: Are people still paying attention? Yeah, I know. Are people still paying attention to their position in the universe and the good they do in the world?
Barbra Anderson: I think Janet and I both have some pretty strong perspectives on this. And one visual that we like to use is the kimono. And when companies are being transparent, they have to open the kimono a little bit, which is really unsettling, especially for a lot of senior executives to show what’s really taking place on inside the company. But that’s where we talk about being authentic.
And you have to be, and a huge piece of this is business resilience. And operationally how can you function? And so this is something that perhaps for years we’ve talked about and worked with companies on how they are looking ahead at crisis situations. What if there is a flood or a mudslide? Or there is an illness where employees can’t get to work? And looking at all of those scenarios and to your point, Andi, that is costly and it can take time to do that in advance. But look at the companies who were prepared and how they have used that to their advantage.
And then the last thing I’ll say on that is the disappointment that Janet and I have in terms of companies who have professionals in corporate social responsibility positions, or sustainability, or whatever you want to call it, corporate citizenship. And how many we’re now seeing on LinkedIn who are unemployed. And so that is the tragic part of it is it because those associates maybe weren’t ingrained enough in the corporate strategy and what should take place? Or was it really lipstick that the company had all along? If they don’t see the value of it. And Janet, you’ve got to, I know a strong perspective on that.
Janet Craig: I have stopped and started this LinkedIn article that I want to publish. And maybe this will give me the impetus to get it out there. This is what I believe. I believe that if you as a company hired a corporate responsibility professional. And you expected that person to know what they were doing, and that person came in and maybe they weren’t as experienced as they needed to be. And they came in thinking that you knew what you wanted and neither one of you knows what you want. And you’re not communicating. Or that person was working on things that they should have had team members working on. And instead they were not working on or had a hard time getting to the executives that they needed to grab the ear of and the attention of. CEOs don’t speak the same language as the CFO who does not speak the same language as investor relations.
And I know we’re talking about publicly held companies because they are the ones that are… Well, everybody’s being impacted by this. But when you talk about meat packing plants or people that are creating food based products and these plants where people are close together. That disconnect unfortunately happened in the pandemic, just shined a light on a weakness. Fortunately those people have been let go, it pains me. I’m very, very passionate about it. And that I think that the good outcome of that is that maybe the CEO, CFO, investor relations and other people now, maybe they will take some time and learn that that corporate responsibility professional is the one position that you need to protect. They know everything that’s going on in your company socially. They’d have to work with HR. They have to work with their kind of workplace services people.
They have to work with people that are building their new office buildings and logistics centers. They’ve got to know that language, they have to speak the language of their investors. They’ve got to speak the language of their employees. I mean, it goes on. They’re like talk about multilingual, right? They’ve got speak 10 or 15 different languages every single day, number one. Number two, they have to constantly show what their ROI is, which is ridiculous because they are protecting the reputation of your company and they’re showing-
Andi Graham: And the intangibles. Yeah.
Janet Craig: And the intangibles. The one person that you don’t want to get rid of who you should have the tightest relationship with is your corporate responsibility person right now today. And it angers me. But on the other end of it, I think that there’s an opportunity for leadership to finally go, “Okay, I get it. Tell me more about this.” Why is it bad that I let this person go? Because they are just an integral part of your company. And if they were doing their job and you were doing your job and you weren’t just checking the box, that would have never occurred.
Andi Graham: That’s great.
Barbra Anderson: Well, and to leave that on a positive note, I think there’s huge opportunities for people in those positions, especially around innovations. And we’ve seen certainly a tremendous rise of innovation of what companies are doing. And we think about these professionals in the company who have the relationships, as Janet said all across the organization internally, but also externally with government affairs and with local nonprofits and relationships with customers. And this is the time that all of those connections in that was even something that we’ve shared on a podcast, is that to tap into all of those connections, like, look at what assets you have now, including relationships. In what creative, innovative offerings can the company have? What products can they come with that maybe is complete pivot. But tap into those relationships that hopefully they have developed along this time.
So I would say that there is huge opportunity for those individuals to roll up their sleeves and look at what those assets are and what innovations can take place.
Andi Graham: For sure. Janet, Barbara, thank you guys so much for spending the morning with me today. I have so many more questions, but we will have to do those another time. The work you do is just so interesting and just so impactful and empowering, I would think. So where can people find you if they want to learn more?
Barbra Anderson: Yeah. The company website is destinationbetter.com and our podcast is Creating Responsible Companies where podcasts like Walk the Walk are available on iTunes and Stitcher and Spotify. And also on YouTube. We’ve got a video on YouTube for each episode. And in downloads we’ve got the Accenture report that you referenced to Andi on destinationbetter.com under our episodes. So it’s such an honor to be with you on this journey. I’ve always admired your work and your leadership in the community. And so we’re really honored to be on the show.
Andi Graham: Oh, I appreciate that. Thank you so much.
Barbra Anderson: Thank you.
Janet Craig: Thank you.