24 April, 2020
Increasingly, Covid-19 is helping to distinguish the truly purpose-led companies, like Patagonia, from those who look to benefit from purpose when times are good, but abandon ethics when times get difficult.
We recently reflected on the fact that businesses who behave well during the current crisis will be remembered, and recognised, in the future. A survey this week reinforced this, suggesting that 75% of US consumers believe that how companies act now will impact reputation in the future.
What does doing the right thing mean? Well, it certainly doesn’t mean doing what Marriott – a signatory to last year’s much praised Business Roundtable statement on corporate purpose did – and furloughing employees and limiting their access to health insurance while paying out dividends and recommending a raise in CEO compensation. It does mean continuing to focus on issues that were identified as priorities prior to the pandemic – see Microsoft’s statement this week that “sustainability issues have become no less urgent or important” as it launched its Planetary Computer – which uses artificial intelligence and user friendly software to help organisations and individuals solve environmental challenges with the help of its data and platform.
We have said it before, and will say it again. Purpose is for the bad times as well as the good. If addressing a significant sustainability issue felt important six months ago, it is almost certainly still important now. Proving to your stakeholders that the commitments you made last year are commitments that you still plan to keep are essential. The way in which you deliver them, or the speed with which you do so, may change, but the guiding principles should not.