We all want to live in a society that puts issues such as health, employment, education, transport and energy conservation at the top of the agenda. The recent environmental protests are testament to that.
However, national statutory bodies tasked with responsibility for these don’t always hit their targets. In fact, with all the focus on BREXIT in recent years, it sometimes appears they have forgotten where their targets are!
But rather than just moaning, I think it's wrong to sit back and judge, without becoming an active part of the solution. Especially as some of us have the power to bring about positive change within the communities in which we operate or live. And none more so than business organisations with a robust reputation - and therefore an influential voice.
The value of reputation
What is reputation? It’s not the same as your corporate image, which is something transitory that can be bolstered by investing in brand-building exercises and clever marketing campaigns. Reputation equates to respect. Something that’s impossible to buy, and extremely potent.
Good corporate reputations are hard won. They are valuable in many ways, not least in forging stronger stakeholder loyalty. If you have a good reputation, you can stimulate maximum sales through “word of mouth”, both digitally and person-to-person.
A good reputation gets you noticed
One of the other key benefits of having a strong corporate reputation is that various different audiences will listen to you. If your reputation includes fairness, stability and a genuine adherence to such principles as inclusive workforces, community responsibility and an environmental conscience, you can demonstrate that you are an organisation that cares.
Such things bring commercial advantages, of course - including happier and therefore more productive staff, a fruitful relationship and a competitive edge. However, organisations with positive and well-rounded reputations can use them to create positive change in public policy.
Actions and words
Approaching big businesses for “quick fix” solutions such as grants and donations is all well and good. However, tapping into their reputations to create sustainable, long-term solutions provides infinite possibilities. There’s a much-quoted phrase: “healthy back-streets make for healthy high-streets”.
Companies who take on responsibility for improvements to their local community – who engage with policymakers – can play an important role in building resilience in their population. They speak, and people listen. Their perceived neutrality can also help in communicating with marginalised and vulnerable members of society.
These days there is more than a degree of distrust in policymakers and even agencies set up to bring about social change. A corporate entity is independent and impartial, so can be viewed as above politics and petty arguments. There is greater willingness to believe that business organisations lobby for change and support projects for altruistic reasons, which endows their initiatives with an increased degree of credibility.
Winning friends and influencing people
Another important advantage of corporate players driving social change is the additional resources they can attract. Organisations with a strong reputation can enlist more companies from their supply chain, local business contacts and peers. Lastly, managers and board members who have the wisdom to value reputation and forge strong links with their community, also tend to be those with the entrepreneurial drive and determination to make things happen.
Over the years, I have spent part of my week taking time out to add value to other people and organisations on a voluntary basis. This has included mentoring, board roles and even setting up a Community Interest Company (CIC) to help more women have the confidence to fast-track their careers or establish enterprises. Activities which are done below the radar without fuss or publicity.
There are many ways to contribute to local life, so why not get involved in your community or 'place' and make a difference by helping to build more resilient public policies?