Ellen Pabst von Ohain knows that humans use different methods to communicate and connect with others. As we explore topics that help us define what it is to be human such as through worldwide politics, environmental trends or human relationships, we also explore the connections between ideas. This blog is about connections.
Saturday, February 1, 2014
B Team Leaders Make a Statement on Human Rights in Davos
My interest is education (consumer and institutional), marketing and
corporate communication. I believe that consumer demand for sustainable
products and better corporate behavior will be THE driving factor in forcing
companies to make the investment and choices needed towards sustainability. But
this is only one approach in what I believe must be a concerted effort on
Although approaching the firm's leadership from the top is a necessary
and effective strategy, as BTeam is doing at DAVOS, I believe you have to have
a multi-thrust strategy, simultaneously, to be truly effective.
These are the areas of activities:
1. Focus on Corporate Leadership,
2. Add Metric Evaluation and Certification by third-party organizations
of firm's activities,
3. Provide massive Customer/Citizen/Student awareness through marketing
4. Get Government to regulate, fund and act.
Finally, because the world is a big place and there is so much
diversity in culture and procedure, after that comes localization and regional
organization to implement these activities, tailored to the individual
Regarding the consumer, demand from this sector will hit companies
harder and faster than slower changes within the other sectors mentioned. Why?
Because consumers (B2B or B2C) hold the power but don't know it! As soon as the
consumer stops buying, companies scramble and spend to recapture or create new
Companies believe they understand and can control their markets if
there is enough spend. They don't
however fully understand the power of community and the need to partner with
them, not control them. What would happen if the consumer is organized to
create demand in the first place? What if the majority of consumers dictates
today what future products must look like, and demand a certain behavior from
companies? Actually this is already beginning to occur in a limited manner through
online or physical community engagement whereby communities are
self-organizing. In addition,
shareholders are taking a closer look and examining who and what they
are investing in. They are starting to ask uncomfortable questions. But this
movement is slow and fragmented.
More about the consumer: Many think the average consumer doesn't really
care, but that is not true. The majority of average consumers worldwide , don't
really understand what is going on. There are countless marketing studies that
report the consumer is unhappy, mistrusting and confused about sustainability
because of the media blitz primarily funded by corporate marketing. In spite of
this confusion and mistrust, he knows "something must change". He
does not know however, how to proceed. People (consumers, workers, community
members) need education, enlightenment, marketing and media blitz to show them
that they have the power to make choices.
First, they need to be shown how making ethical, sustainable decisions
today affects them in their own world, in their own pockets. Then it becomes real to them. Regarding the West where the strongest
consumer markets are, although one can be sympathetic, it is hard to be too
concerned about what happens to workers in Bangladesh or Human Rights in the
Congo when you yourself sit in your acclimatized living room eating the
chocolate, children of Congolese farmers harvest. Do they really know the
history of that Nestle's bar or MilkyWay? Maybe, yes. But Human Rights
realities might hit "home" if the consumer was no longer able to buy
chocolate bars, or coffee or even cotton t-shirts, because either the workers
in these countries went on strike refusing to work at unjust wages, or the
local water sources dried up completely making cotton unplantable, scarce and
therefore exorbitantly expensive. Human nature dictates that consumers must see
a direct impact within their own comfortable lives.
In Asia where the consumer market is exploding, The Chinese government
is beginning to take a sharp and active eye into regulating and controlling
sustainable corporate activities. The
East and West do not operate in the same way, but our goals are not dissimilar.
Second, today's consumer wants to recognize the firm that has similar values to
his own. Marketing studies show us that consumers loyally and heavily buy from
firms, or brands that represent their own values. Who and where are those
firms? Who really judges the sustainable actions and values of the firm? Right
now, it is the firm itself. Hardly reliable.
The real question is Who will pay for shifting consumer marketing to
focus on issues beyond just product or brand promotion? Reports tell us that
there is only a 20-30% consumer recognition factor of third-party, independent
Certification Authorities (Seals like WWF, FSC, MSC). Here in Germany for example, our largest food
chain group, Edeka, launched a media marketing campaign featuring Giant Pandas
running around a supermarket, shopping, causing havoc and being cute. Even at
the end of the spot whereby the WWF flashed and it was explained that there was
no a partnership and Edeka would be featuring WWF-approved products, consumer
and man-in-the-street interviews showed that the viewer didn't get it. They
didn't recognize the Panda, the WWF logo or the meaning of the
partnership. The campaign was quickly
pulled. It is still too early for this kind of connection/linking. We are missing a step.
Why aren't these institutions doing more to advertise their value and
importance as outside evaluators to the firm and to society? No money.
Where should this money come from? Answer: The firms themselves - how? Through a third
party - The government where the firm is founded, perhaps via a Sustainability
Tax. Companies have to be the ones to
pay. Many (but no not all) are responsible for the mess the world is in today.
Plus, they are the only ones with money. Then through government funding and
regulation, independent NGO's and NFP's would receive financial support (and
needed scrutiny), and they can do the job of evaluation, regulation and
certification, which in turn companies will seek to obtain. Then and only then,
should firms position themselves as sustainable.
So you see, we need an orchestrated concerted effort in all areas,
simultaneously. It is too hard an uphill
battle to focus on any one area without support in the other sectors of