We don’t trust the media, governments and NGOs as much as we used to. Instead, businesses and business leaders are gaining our trust.
Have you heard the story about how Salesforce CEO, Marc Benioff, made Mike Pence drop a law he wanted to pass that would allow business owners to refuse to serve people based on their religious belief? Or the story about how William H. Lever, founder of Unilever, made a soap back in the 1800’s because he wanted to lessen work for women?
In my hometown, Stavanger (the western coast of Norway), a brilliant financial mind wanted to build strong communities through teaching private customers how they could build a solid economy for themselves. Together with his co-founders, Skagenfondene introduced private customers to new tools that had previously only been available to professional investors, and by doing that they transformed the Norwegian investment market while making especially my region prosper through a movement of happy and financially healthy inhabitants.
We still have faith in businesses
Just recently I’ve seen discussions taking place in the media, on whether Norway and Denmark should participate in the upcoming Football World Championship being held in Qatar. The Guardian found that more than 6.500 workers who were building new football-fields for the tournament had lost their lives due to horrible working conditions. I think we all agree that is not okay, but how much activism are we willing to do when the consequence is that we won’t be able to see our national football team in a world championship?
There is an election coming up in Norway this fall. This year I’m taking a particular interest in what each party is committing to. How are they planning to balance our fossil fuel production with taking care of our beautiful nature? What do we want other nationalities to say about us? What do we want to be associated with, and how much are we willing to pay – or sacrifice – in order to change our growing reputation of not taking care of our planet by continuing to produce fossil energy? These are issues close to my heart right now and could possibly make me vote very differently from previous elections.
Edelman Trust Barometer has indicated for years that trust in governments, media and NGOs is declining, while people still have some faith in businesses, or at least business leaders. The survey claims that people expect business leaders to fix issues politics fail to solve. This is a great opportunity for businesses that the world needs – businesses who mobilize their entire workforce around solving important problems that matter for its customers and communities.
Leaders around the world can no longer predict the future behind closed boardroom- or C-level doors. They need to ignite and release the full potential of every single employee if they are going to continuously make sure that they are solving the right problems, and that they provide their customers with amazing solutions and customer experience. Surveys like Gallup Workplace Report state that only around 10% of the global workforce is actually motivated and engaged in their jobs. So what should businesses and business leaders do?
How to take the stand
We need to close the gap between businesses looking for the right problems to solve and employees lacking reasons to get engaged. There are many great examples of leaders reducing this gap by using their leadership- and brand platform, to take a stand on important issues that matter to people and society. You could start by taking a deep dive into your company’s customer base and do some research to deeply understand how the company skills and competencies can be used to solve problems that provide value for all stakeholders, including society and planet. Because it’s not that disengaged employees don’t care! They strike together with Greta Thunberg, they pay hundreds of dollars to wear Dior’s t-shirt stating that “we are all feminists”, and they demonstrate that inequality due to gender, color or culture is not okay. To mention some of the movements taking place today.
Take inspiration from brands like Ben & Jerry, Nike, Ørsted – and best-in-class Patagonia. Check out their activism and actions, and look around to discover that taking a stand doesn’t just do good to the world – it pays off in business as well! Because when you engage and ignite your workforce’s full potential you’ll see that they will increase productivity by as much as 40% (according to Gallup), society will prosper from engaged and happy people – and all this is a consequence of making leadership and business about improving the world. Isn’t that like a double or triple win-win situation?