By Robbie Karp
Axios once again makes a muddled social landscape ranging from issues of immigration, gun safety, discrimination, environmental action and more, easy to understand for any reader. It notes “a fascinating trend is unfolding in the Trump era: Corporations, under intense social pressure, are filling a void left by governmental gridlock or avoidance” and that in many cases this is a business mandate due to “intense pressure from social media mobs and idealistic millennials in the companies’ workforces, who expect their employers to take stands.”
In other words, it’s not doing something because it is the “right thing to do” (although as social impact advisors we love this approach, too), it’s doing something because your stakeholders are watching and they have power. As the article points out, CSR is now “one of the hottest topics in boardrooms.”
It’s not surprising when you look at how 2018 started, with Larry Fink’s annual letter to CEOs titled “A Sense of Purpose.”
Our philosophy for social impact was formed over two decades ago. Don’t do fancy reports to say how great your company is—no one will believe you even if it’s true.
In our view, the best approach is collaborating with all types of people, those who disagree with you, those who judge you, and those with different skills and agendas. Just as important, engage with your audiences on these topics frequently — and certainly more than once a year, especially since social media is driving much of the conversation. And remember that things society once relied on governments to do are not getting done because of political conflict and insufficient resources. Corporate engagement is more critical now than ever before.
And while some corporate managers told Axios privately that “they resent directing money and attention for social causes, instead of driving profit and business growth,” we believe these two things are becoming inextricably linked, and organizations should use their resources wisely, selecting authentic and relatable causes to work on.
There may soon be no choice. As Axios so eloquently states, “the social compact between private enterprise, government and citizens has permanently changed.”