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August 17, 2012

Companies Must Find Their Inner Societal Purpose

financial times

Published by The Financial Times on October 17th, 2012, this letter was written by GlobeScan Foundation President, Doug Miller, in response to an October 11th, 2012 article entitled "Companies are facing a new type of opponent

 

Sir Michael Skapinker’s article “Companies are facing a new type of opponent” (October 11) builds very well on Simon Zadek’s keen observation that conflict today stems increasingly from the gulf between rich and poor within countries.

Mr. Skapinker goes on to argue quite effectively that this has created a new opposing force to free enterprise, as demonstrated by seemingly random and unexpected uprisings at mines in South Africa, at Foxconn in China and during last year’s riots in Britain (not to mention Occupy Wall Street).

This phenomenon is underscored by the poll we conducted for the BBC World Service earlier this year, which revealed that majorities in 18 of 24 countries see the economic system in their country as unfair in distributing economic benefits and costs. The fact that companies are increasingly being targeted by these “new opponents” is understandable given another finding from the same poll – that free enterprise as currently practised is progressively losing its appeal. While one in two citizens across the 24 countries believes flaws in the free market system can be fixed through reform and regulation, fully one in four now sees it as fatally flawed and that a new economic system is needed.

We would argue that the best defence to all this is a good offence. Big companies first need to manage their reputation proactively among their stakeholders to avoid being targeted; and second, they need to rediscover an authentic societal purpose at the heart of their enterprise from which to demonstrate the efficacy of free enterprise in meeting the real needs of the majority of people.

I used to joke in client presentations that those chief financial officers and other executives who continued to oppose corporate social responsibility initiatives by their companies would one day awake to discover that CSR had been replaced by something they would like even less. Well, this is it.

Read this letter on The Financial Times (Subscription Required)

Doug Miller

Doug Miller founded GlobeScan in 1987, and has led its expansive growth and its transition to an evidence-based consultancy and engagement firm. A pioneer of global polling, Doug is also a respected practitioner of stakeholder engagement and collaborative action. Recognized as a leading public affairs specialist, he briefs corporate boardrooms and government leaders around the world. Doug is President of the GlobeScan Foundation.