Fortune CEO Initiative: How to get a place and role of business in society

When organizations take a stance on social issues, they almost always put themselves in confrontation with some of their own stakeholders, especially at a time when almost every issue is politically charged. chemical.

In LuckThe CEO Initiative Summit in Palm Beach, Fla. Last Thursday, a panel of business leaders discussed how companies can lead with purpose, even if they can’t keep everyone satisfied. Citing events ranging from the death of George Floyd to Georgia’s controversial 2021 election law overhaul to more recent repeal Roe v. WadeThe panel has no shortage of real-life examples of situations where companies felt compelled to take a stand on an issue of societal importance.

Lesson learned: Under any circumstances, companies that clearly define a reason for being and communicate that purpose throughout their organization are far better off than those that try to step back from responsibility. society after the crisis broke out.

“Just stating a purpose is not enough,” says Jessica Orkin, CEO of consulting firm SYPartners. While companies need to establish a reason to stay off their balance sheet, they also need to develop and implement processes to integrate that purpose into their company operations and decision making. their entire organization. Doing so ensures that the company’s actions match its words.

Janeen Gelbart, co-founder and CEO of Indiggo, an AI solutions maker that helps companies implement purposeful strategies and initiatives in their businesses, says this is where which companies often fail. “When it comes to deployment, especially at scale and across geographies, things fall apart because of a lack of clear strategy at scale,” she said.

With different things lying in different corners of any organization, it can prove nearly impossible to imbue all employees or processes with the company’s core principles or let them Make decisions that reflect the company’s core values. That breakdown can lead to bad results, in some cases, that kind of evening news.

Companies today have more data and insight than ever before into places where the size of an organization’s culture or values ​​is breaking down. But in an age characterized by public expectations for business and where social media can quickly turn an individual or company apart, business leaders are often drawn to into social or political debates by current events — a problem for which there is no technological solution. In those cases, Gelbart says, there’s no substitute for honesty and clear communication.

“I think it’s really important for an organization to clearly articulate their DNA, what their values ​​are, what they believe in — to make sure they’re not just a front blown leaf. wind, trying to please too many people. Gelbart said. “I think if you can stick to that in the most neutral way, it’s easier to defend your choices and what you believe in.”

All panelists agreed that companies that enter the crisis with a clearly defined purpose are in a much better place than those that try to define their stance on the issues. social issues when things are going sideways.

Matt McDonald said: “If you’ve done this work before, you’ll get more credibility and grace from your shareholders than if you got caught up in something and it wasn’t what you did. or care. president of Penta, a provider of data-driven solutions for stakeholder engagement. “You have to do the work when no one is looking.”

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