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Advocating for advocacy

21 April, 2023

Over the past few years, the expectation that businesses will take a public position and advocate for positive social, environmental, and political change has dramatically increased. Companies and CEOs are often found taking strong stands on issues from climate change, to racial justice, to the role of business itself. 

While we’re all for businesses having a point of view, making it public, and following through on it, we’re also well aware of the fact that the world of corporate advocacy is far from straightforward. That’s why next month’s event on the ethics of corporate advocacy, hosted by the Institute of Business Ethics, has caught our attention.  

The event (it’s free to register) will provide guests with the opportunity to explore how to speak up on sustainability and social justice issues, consider their role in advocating for these issues and understand how to manage their reputation in the process. Speakers include representatives from Natura &Co and the Institute of Business Ethics.  

As a starting point, you may be interested in this recent blog from David Grayson, one of the event’s facilitators and a friend of Good Business, which contains some really helpful guidance on how to pick the issues you advocate for, and how to approach it (spoiler – do you have the credibility and track record to stand up and speak out on a particular issue?) He also highlights something that we have long focused on which is ensuring that your broader corporate activities, such as the lobbying you conduct particularly via trade associations does not conflict with your advocacy objectives. Those double standards won’t fly, and will undermine what you are trying to do, as well as your reputation.  

The more companies that speak out, the greater the scrutiny they face. We are seeing more instances of companies being called out for getting it wrong (despite their best intentions) and a rising backlash against what is sometimes painted as “woke capitalism”. Against this backdrop, it’s great to see expert-led forums such as these foster an environment that supports collaboration and sharing of ideas that will be essential to enabling businesses to harness their resources to realise the changes that they are advocating for.  We’ll see you at the IBE webinar! 

By Jovontae Catline

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