Hello SOTGC Community!
Since the global economic downturn, consumers have learned to be very cautious with their hard earned dollars. Today it isn’t enough for a company to have a cool or “must have” product. To earn respect and loyalty from customers, companies today need to take care of their employees, the environment, and the communities in which they work and operate.
Consumers today are voting more and more with their dollars and companies are paying attention. It’s that “triple bottom line,” as envisioned by the British CSR expert, John Elkington, in 1994 coming to light in 2014. The triple bottom line refers to the company’s people, planet, and profit rather than solely on financials performance.
Luckily, there are many examples of consumer-facing companies that are doing well by doing good. I’d like to provide three examples of companies that I believe have it right.
A company I have long admired (and for full disclosure, I spent 10 years working for in the Global Communications department) is Starbucks Coffee Company. The ubiquitous coffee company is built on the premise of treating employees with respect and dignity, staying focused on the customer, taking care of suppliers (i.e. coffee farmers) and giving back to the community.
The most recent announcement from the coffee giant is the Starbucks College Achievement Plan. This first-of-its-kind program enables U.S. Starbucks Corporation employees, which includes Starbucks, Teavana, La Boulange, Evolution Fresh, and Seattle’s Best Coffee, to finish a bachelor’s degree with full tuition reimbursement for juniors and seniors through a unique collaboration with Arizona State University online programs.
Let me repeat that. If you work for Starbucks, they will pay for you to finish your college degree with no strings attached.
I have had the personal honor of working closely with Howard Schultz, Starbucks founder, chairman, president and ceo. He is an amazing visionary who genuinely wants to do the right thing and passionately believes this bodes well for the bottom line…as witnessed by Starbucks amazing stock performance since its 1992 IPO.
Another company that I admire is Gap Inc., owner of clothing brands Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Athleta, Piperlime ,and Intermix. Since its founding in 1969 by Doris and Don Fisher, the company’s motto has been to “do more than sell clothes.”
In 1992, Gap Inc. developed global factory compliance guidelines and a vendor code of conduct that has now become the standard for the clothing manufacturing industry. To ensure compliance, the company created a “sourcing counsel” consisting of people involved with sourcing for the company who identify problems and define solutions to address those concerns.
Starbucks did a similar thing when it released its C.A.F.E. (Coffee and Farmer Equity) Practices in 2001, which required coffee farmers to meet Starbucks quality and have economic transparency as prerequisites for joining the program. Basically, the company asked producers to open their books and account for every penny along the supply chain. And they did, to the amazement of many naysayers.
Back to the apparel industry, which has been closely scrutinized for its labor practices, or lack thereof, in developing countries. Most recently, Bangladesh has been front and center due to the horrific building collapse at Rana Plaza in 2013 where 1,129 people died and approximately 2,515 people were injured.
Even though Gap Inc.’s brands were not customers of Rana, the company was one of the first American retailers that I noticed commenting on the situation and committing to stronger safety regulations in the country. I was very impressed with Gap Inc.’s transparency of actions taken by the company to improve conditions for garment workers.
And for its workers at home, Gap Inc. (and Starbucks) is an advocate of increasing the minimum wage and reducing the wage gap between men and women. According to its Do More campaign, Gap Inc. says a paycheck is not just compensation … it’s a communication that says, “I’m respected. I’m valued. My employer believes in me.” Well said, Gap. Well said.
Additionally, Forbes Magazine recognized Gap Inc. with 3rd place recognition (behind Bristol-Myers Squibb and Johnson & Johnson) as one of Americas 100 Best Corporate Citizens in 2014. Specifically, Gap Inc. was highlighted for programs geared toward women garment workers (who make up 80 percent of the garment workforce worldwide), teaching basic skills like health awareness, literacy, stress management, and verbal communication. #Awesome
Gap Inc.’s view is that it doesn’t matter where they make and sell their clothes, they believe in taking action to improve the lives of garment workers. They put their money where their mouth is. And consumers see this and give a vote of approval with every dollar spent.
And you don’t have to be a big company to do positive things in the world.
Take Tatcha, a skin-care company that makes amazing products based on the ancient beauty regime of Japanese geisha. This company, only a few years old, provides one day of school for each product that is purchased.
What these three companies have in common is the knowledge that treating people, regardless if they are your employees or your suppliers, and your community well is an investment in the long-term valuation of your company and creates an enduring and respected brand.
So now I’ve given you three ways to shop and feel good about your purchase! Please share with me other companies doing well and that you admire. Happy shopping.