Commerce or Conscience?
Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg is not only one of the richest men in the world, but he is also at the forefront of a new shift in business culture. Where once upon a time, business leaders only concerned themselves with profit margins and shareholders, nowadays, there is increased pressure to run businesses with social values. Apparently it is not enough for businesses to make money, they also need to have a conscience. This is why Zuckerberg suggests Facebook’s real purpose is not to make money, but to make the world a better place.
Irrespective of what traditionalists and skeptics might think, there is evidence that suggests Zuckerberg has the right idea. CEOs of giant organizations such as Unilever and famous leaders like Richard Branson and Arianna Huffington, started an organization called the B team several years ago. Its purpose is “to catalyze a better way of doing business”. Automakers such as Ford and Audi as well as fashion houses like Gucci and Ralph Lauren are all striving to align their commercial activities with social and cultural values—not only for them to look good, but because there is a demand for it from employees and customers alike.
To let Zuckerberg tell it, Facebook has always been a “mission-driven company.” According to him, Facebook’s mission statement is to make the world a better place through building a sense of community. He found out while recruiting millenials to his company, that these millenials want to work for a company that is part of something bigger in the world.
It is fair to say that a company’s conscience plays a big part in how it is perceived. When a company is seen as a giver rather than a taker it can benefit from public goodwill. Take Uber and Airbnb for instance. Both companies are significant players of the sharing economy, both have had to challenge local laws to fit in and both companies are worth billions of dollars while remaining privately owned. On the surface both companies have a lot in common and yet only one of them is perceived as a giver.
Former Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick had a difficult 2017. His decision to join and then drop out of President Trump’s business advisory council saw him become embroiled in turmoil. Then due to allegations of sexism and harassment at his company, he had to endure a wave of #DeleteUber protests. Granted these are issues that could face any company. But because Uber had relatively low goodwill in the public eye, these snafus have negatively influenced public perception. Airbnb has had its moments of trouble, too, in its confrontations with local regulators and around allegations of racial discrimination by its community of hosts. Yet, they have largely escaped any cloud of resentment. This is because unlike Uber, Airbnb has taken the steps to align itself with higher-order values.
So what about Nigerian Businesses?
The emphasis that modern companies are putting on social values is as a result of a changing public. As trust in the government has eroded over time, businesses are now expected to play a bigger role in leading culture.
When speaking of Nigerian businesses, it is difficult to imagine companies putting as strong an emphasis on social values as their American counterparts. That is not to say Nigerian companies don’t give back or undertake initiatives for the public. But, as a result of the specific economic conditions Nigerian companies face, it is perhaps wishful thinking to expect them to wholeheartedly incorporate social values in their mission statements.
What has become evident with the emergence of millennials in the job market, is the need for organizations to adapt. Companies must go beyond forging bonds with young people through famous brand ambassadors. They must also provide learning environments that are family friendly.
Social conscience is now the challenge for big business in the 21st century. Times have started to change. Companies have to now stand for something or risk being left behind.
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AlderU is inspired by a monthly interactive session where Alder employees discuss insights on business and life.It is not enough for businesses to make money, they also need to have a conscience. Click To Tweet When a company is seen as a giver rather than a taker, it can benefit from public goodwill. Click To Tweet