In the same way that you can’t “kinda like” pineapple on pizza—you either love it or you hate it, never anything in between—a company can’t “kinda care” about anything, especially if it is among the company’s publicly stated values.
Moreover, it is becoming increasingly costly for companies who want to “kinda care” about certain social, environmental, or humanitarian concerns to simply stay silent about them.
According to Forrester, 51% of Gen Xers “actively consider company values” when making a purchase. A staggering 70% of Millennials do the same.
A steadily increasing number of companies espouse particular values publicly, like Patagonia or TOMS, but the majority do not, and many pay lip service to one or two specific concerns and leave the rest to the imagination. In these cases, companies may feel that they’re hedging their bets in the court of public opinion, but in reality they may only be postponing a judgment.
In today’s consumer climate, customers expect companies to be good global citizens, whether they use those talking points in PR campaigns or not.
For example, companies that do manufacturing, or who participate in virtually any supply chain whatsoever, or who raise capital of almost any kind, are tacitly approving of the actions of every other company involved in those activities.
If a company, say, sources electronics components from another country, and somewhere along the line discovers that the producer of those components is responsible for documented human rights abuses, the company has only two choices: continue to source from that company, or stop.
Publicly, the company itself may advertise a great deal of concern for humanitarian issues. Perhaps the company changed their logo to a rainbow design for Pride Month, or frequently tweets support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and it may even contribute materially to such causes domestically. But if the company is actually funding slavery overseas, those gestures start to mean less.
This is what I mean by “a company can’t kinda care.” A company’s values are the sum of its actions. Does it protect the environment and human rights, or does it not?
We are living in a world where more and more customers care about whether even the most trivial things are manufactured ethically and sustainably, and want to buy from companies that support social and environmental responsibility in material ways.
You don’t get to earn those customers by simply not talking about your values.