"Doing good" means little if not supported by real action

The subject of doing good being good for business is a recurring theme in PRWeek and it is getting more important.

The subject of doing good being good for business is a recurring theme in PRWeek and it is getting more important.

Edelman's Trust Barometer has shown in recent years that con- fidence in business, government, and institutions is at an all-time low. Citizens are sick of corporate greed, foolhardy trading losses, and a laissez-faire attitude to consensual capitalism.

It was a trend touched upon last month by Harold Burson in his acceptance speech at the PRSA Foundation's Paladin Award dinner. He explained the corporate mission has moved from revolving around a reasonable ROI and a stake in communities to focusing solely on maximizing shareholder return.

Burson believes business should be about social responsibility, not just shareholder value, and that public trust will only return when CEOs again prioritize the goal of serving the greater good of our people and nation.

These are all great theories, but often get diluted in practice when the harsh demands of modern business take hold. However, it has got to the stage where there simply has to be a turnaround in behavior to effect a change in perception.

In April, this column highlighted Unilever and Starbucks as proponents of more benevolent capitalism. PRWeek's recent trip to Minneapolis identified companies such as Target, Cargill, and Supervalu that are backing up lofty principles with real-world actions.

Target gives 5% of all its income to local communities. It will have contributed more than $1 billion to education by 2015.

Cargill's founding principle is that a reputation for integrity is a key business differentiator. It is probably the only com- pany to welcome the release of US State Department cables by WikiLeaks because it is referred to therein as an ethical operator that cannot be bribed.

And Supervalu joined Wal-Mart in committing itself to initiatives - initiatives that admittedly still have a long way to go - aimed at providing low-cost healthy goods in so-called "food deserts" in poor areas of America.

Doing good is the future of good business - and it's a future that communications is integrally embedded in creating. 

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