Today, consumers, investors, and even employees are expecting more out of the companies they support. It doesn’t take much browsing on social media to read about brands that have earned widespread ire for falling short. About half of all consumers admit to publicly skewering businesses. Even if those brands are profitable, they face a potentially devastating loss of reputation that could affect their bottom lines.
In other words, it’s a very new type of environment. A full 62% of chief experience officers told Deloitte they were just as focused on positively giving back as on increasing profits. Accordingly, some business leaders are working hard to bridge the gap between doing well and doing good. What they’re finding is that through innovative thinking and problem-solving, they can take stands without losing financial momentum.
Consider the case of CVS. In the mid-2010s, the pharmacy retailer made a decision to stop selling tobacco products. The company lost estimated sales of $2 billion, but gained in the long-term, posting significant annual gross profit increases year after year.
Certainly, it can be difficult for companies to know where to start. Trying to balance fiscal returns with the needs of communities and consumers isn’t simple. One way to begin is for organizations to find out what other successful corporate entities are doing. Below are examples of how world-class companies are putting purpose on par with profits.
1. They’re reimagining products to meet changing end-user needs.
One simple way to bring about more benefits for stakeholders and end-users is through a product refresh. Redesigning packaging to be more sustainable or sourcing raw materials from an eco-friendly vendor can be a boost to shoppers. The point isn’t to change a product without reason, of course. Nevertheless, it can make sense to revamp offerings so they’re aligned with modern buyers’ needs.
Take Instructure’s investment in and introduction of newer assessment tools and methodologies, which were designed to allow educators to create a level playing field for students. Rather than forcing overwhelmed, overburdened teachers to create their own assessments, Instructure has done much of the work. This allows teachers to have a plug-and-play experience when using Canvas to administer assessments.
2. They’re getting concrete about sustainability commitments.
Approximately nine out of every 10 S&P companies have started producing annual sustainability reports. This move is in line with what consumers say they want, which is more environmental accountability from corporations. Not all organizations have laid out a comprehensive mission or constructed a framework for their sustainability goals, though. Rather, they’re talking the talk but perhaps not walking the walk. And they’re only causing skepticism to grow among consumers wary of big promises.
Equifax has chosen to buck the system of making idle promises by putting tangible evidence and numbers to its sustainability objectives. The consumer credit reporting giant has committed to hitting net-zero emissions within 18 years, and it’s explaining how. Not only is Equifax tracking its impact but it’s investing $1.5 billion in cloud technologies. Equifax leaders have emphasized that by moving more practices to the cloud, their company will be able to shave its energy consumption. At the same time, team members will still be able to operate efficiently and serve customers.
3. They’re leveraging technology to make what was once impossible possible.
In the effort to “do well by doing good,” plenty of companies are enlisting the help of powerful technologies. Case in point, fintech leader FIS is experimenting with new ways to use integrated payment technology. For instance, FIS is focusing on cashless options and enhancing attendees’ experience at The Washington Nationals’ games. Attendees can quickly pay for everything from tickets to food, as well as place BetMGM Sportsbook wagers. The integration provides full personalization of any in-game experience in real time by leveraging data through its unparalleled analytics platform.
Truly, technology can become a key resource for all organizations that want to move the “corporate purpose” needle. When thoughtfully applied, technologies have the capacity to alleviate common consumer-company stressors. In addition, technology can embolden different ways of thinking. And different ways of thinking can become the fodder for revolutionary solutions that change our day-to-day experiences.
4. They’re putting an emphasis on the triple bottom line.
The last decade has seen an uptick in corporations focused on a triple bottom line consisting of the “three Ps” – profits, people, and planet. Essentially, triple bottom line accounting takes a comprehensive view of the complete measure of a company’s impact. Yes, dollars earned are critical. Yet triple bottom line reporting shows the ripples beneath the surface as well as what’s on top.
With 69% of investors interested in putting money behind socially responsible organizations, the triple bottom line matters more and more. Some experts believe that it will become the standard way to evaluate a business’s actual success beyond raw numbers. After all, triple bottom line accounting allows for the objective measurement of a company’s compassion and caring.
With the next industrial generation and potentially the metaverse looming, companies are being asked to step up. They’ll always need to make money but now they’re expected to give back in meaningful ways, too. Those that meet this challenge will be rewarded on all levels.