You’ve heard it before: Consumers demand authenticity. These brands are getting it right by taking authentic action on important social issues.
We see more and more brands taking stands because consumers demand authenticity. We’re surrounded by so much marketing that people—particularly younger ones—will tune out any voice that doesn’t strike them as honest and direct.
That desire for an authentic conversation increasingly means companies need to talk about where they stand on social issues. Vague platitudes ring hollow. Companies willing to speak out on even a few issues come across as engaged and thoughtful.
A well-crafted statement from the PR department may keep you out of controversy, but it sends a message that you’re just another faceless corporate entity. Brand loyalty comes, in part, from imbuing that brand with meaning.
Here are seven brands taking stands by supporting principled and smart social causes:
IBM is taking a stand by highlighting employees who are “Dreamers”—they came to the United States as children, and are contributing to society in many ways, including working at one of the world’s leading technology companies.
Candy-maker Mars is taking a stand by refusing to go along with President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. The company is launching a $1 billion sustainability plan, with M&Ms candies championing renewable energy. CEO Grant Reid said, “While many companies have been working on being more sustainable, the current level of progress is nowhere near enough.”
Dow’s CEO Andrew Liveris is taking a stand by being among the most committed and vocal leaders on LGBT protections. Liveris and his team work to promote equity on a global, federal, and local level.
JetBlue, which last year took “a swipe at Congress” by encouraging customers to “reach across the aisle,” just made an ambitious commitment to the Puerto Rican hurricane relief effort. The company is taking a stand with a detailed plan for supporting local nonprofits in Puerto Rico. Local organizations are too often overlooked in corporate philanthropy.
The CEO of Chobani, Hamdi Ulukaya, is taking a stand by hiring refugees from dozens of countries. Inspired by his experiences with refugees, he launched the Tent Foundation, a nonprofit organization that is funding and organizing refugee relief efforts and engaging other companies, too.
During the Civil Rights era, Cummins’ CEO J. Irwin Miller took a stand by marching with Martin Luther King Jr. Since then, the company’s commitment to social justice has not wavered. Cummins’ vendors and suppliers sign an anti-bullying promise and commit to an inclusive workplace.
Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier is taking a stand by resigning from President Trump’s Manufacturing Jobs Initiative. After Charlottesville, he said, “America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry, and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal.” As with Frazier, statements by the companies on this list are often inspired by the personal beliefs of their leaders. But more important than the origin is the connection it creates with consumers and employees.
Engaging on social issues certainly carries risks in a divided society, but appearing indifferent and inauthentic does, too. As Paul Polman, the forward-thinking CEO of Unilever, said, you might have to “endorse change that might otherwise seem risky.”
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