- February 26, 2023
- Posted by: Jörg Forthmann
Wake-up call for communicators and their bosses
How top managers overcome the dangerous dichotomy between social responsibility and commerce.
This book is about the beginning of a tremendous upheaval. Climate change, the destruction of nature and livelihoods, and the increasing division of societies are threatening the way we live and do business. We can’t go on like this, we are going in the wrong direction. Companies are not just bystanders in these developments. Either they have long been actors by their own choice, or they are forced into positioning. Investors, policymakers, regulators, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and, increasingly, their own employees, consumers, business customers and even the courts are demanding that businesses do their part to fight climate change and keep communities cohesive.
Companies and their products and services must fulfill a purpose, a “purpose” that goes beyond making money, is the appeal. This is not empty fashionable talk. Some products have already lost their raison d’être in this change and have disappeared from the market. Companies and entire industries are rebuilding their product ranges at great expense. Some companies that understood too late or not at all have already gone bankrupt.
From the perspective of crisis prevention and management, a new form of crisis is emerging. Let’s call it the crisis of meaning or legitimacy. Those whose economic activities and products do not protect the climate and contribute to the common good risk being ostracized, boycotted and subjected to regulatory pressure. Neutrality is not enough. Positioning and action are required. We are still at the beginning of this development. The contours of the economic order of the 21st century are still blurred. Nonetheless, violations of the newly emerging rules and values can have tangible consequences, as initial cases from the field show. It’s time to prepare.
Those who do nothing or the wrong thing become targets for activists and politicians pushing for change. In the worst case, a company is stylized via the media as a scapegoat for the failings of many, an inflated symbol. Responsible risk management should try to exclude this case.