Making sure your company has clear ethical stances has long been revered for internal purposes such as employee morale and company directives. That’s still critical (as we’ll discuss), but more recently it’s become essential for attracting customers too. In this blog, I’ll cover some recent trends you should keep in mind and provide some guidance on figuring out what your company should stand for.
More and more consumers are ethical shoppers
Many consumers — especially younger ones — prefer brands that stand for something. Even back in 2018, millennial and Gen Z consumers were showing a clear preference for companies that stood for something. Now think about all that has happened since then in terms of climate change, social justice, political stances, and let’s not forget a global pandemic. Point is, the trend that was growing a few years ago has become even more important and apparent today.
I’m going to throw a bunch of findings at you from recent surveys to drive this home:
- 16% of consumers in loyalty programs said the top reason they were loyal to a brand is that it aligned with their values and personal beliefs1
- 22% of consumers noted a brand’s ethics would be a determining factor in switching brands they buy1
- 25% of consumers said a brand’s social or political affiliation would affect their long-term ecommerce behavior1
- 38% of consumers were concerned about where a brand sources their products1
- 39% of consumers were concerned about the environmental impact of the products they consume1
- 27% of teens said they pay attention to their carbon footprint, and of those, 54% said their carbon footprint impacts purchasing decisions2
In short, price is not always the determining factor. How and why your products are made is just as important as what they are. Consumers want products that reflect their values and beliefs, and — if you do that well — it can be a crucial tipping point in making your brand stand out.
What should you stand for?
The first step is to look at your core values. If those aren’t well defined, do that first. Those should be the anchor point or ultimate source for any ethical stances your company is going to take. If your stance can’t be derived from your core values, then you either have a stance that your company can’t or won’t live up to, or you need to redefine your core values.
Now, onto the question of actual stances.
Do they have to be political? Nope.
Should they be something around our ethics? 100%, yes.
Do we have to address big cultural issues? It depends, but to some degree, yes.
There are two things you should always consider when it comes to what your company should stand for:
- Is it something related to the core values/foundational beliefs of your company?
- If you’re a company that fundamentally believes in inclusivity, for example, you should establish the company stance on LGBTQ rights, laws that aid Americans with disabilities, etc. (And if your company has no core value involving inclusivity, then maybe you don’t need to take a stand.) Ideally, any stance should be grounded in the company’s core values. Otherwise, it’s not clear to your employees why you’d take a stand on that topic, and your customers might view it as superficial or pandering.
- If it matters to your loyal customers, it should matter to you.
- When someone has chosen to become loyal to your brand, they usually have an emotional connection to it, almost like a friend. And just like a friend, you can strengthen your friendship, let it dissipate, or — at worst — betray their trust and end it. The bonds are strengthened by shared concerns. Importantly, this doesn’t mean you always have to agree. But, at minimum, you will need to address it either by stating why you do or do not support a given topic or issue. Patagonia, for example, often addresses climate issues that extend well beyond their products because it’s extremely important to their most loyal customers (and their stances are always tied back to their brand values).
Ethical stances are essential for recruiting and retaining employees
In August of 2021, a record 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The pandemic forced millions of Americans out of work for a time, and then caused millions more to question the jobs they were able to retain, or question the ones available as businesses began reopening. There’s a definite shift in mindset from a time when employees were trying to prove their worth to employers, to where many employers are having to prove their worth to potential employees. “Cultural fit,” which may have been a secondary concern, well behind pay and benefits, is becoming top of mind.
A company that publicly supports certain charities, or promotes family time through extended maternity and paternity leave, or sets goals to be carbon neutral is giving employees a clear idea of what they value in addition to financial stability. The opportunities for people to make money are fairly plentiful right now. So, it’s critical for your current and potential employees to understand what else you provide, and what benefits you’re offering ideologically as well as professionally.
It’s easy to talk about, but identifying your core values is a rigorous task that can require lots of digging and refining to create a truly solid foundation for your company. If you’d like a partner to work with you to determine what you should stand for we can help!