GreenBiz Reads

How to win reputation and influence positive impact


The following is an edited excerpt from "The Executive's Guide to 21st Century Corporate Citizenship: How Your Company Can Win the Battle for Reputation and Impact," by Dave Stangis and Katherine Valvoda Smith (Emerald Publishing, 2017).

How do you differentiate your corporate citizenship program?

Maybe you have the best R&D people in the world, or possibly your ability to deliver a particular experience is second to none. These are your firm’s core competencies — the things you do exceptionally well as a business and which differentiate you from your competitors. Your purpose and your competencies come together to make up your value proposition.

Understanding how your unique value proposition intersects a clear societal need is the key to unlocking measurable outcomes and impact. And just like with your purpose, you now need to be able to describe your complete value proposition so that anyone in the company would say, "Oh yes, that sounds just like [your company name]." They get it. They understand what you deliver and what you do in a more unique and compelling way than anyone else.

Mapping your business process flow 

In order to define the corporate citizenship building blocks, tactics, risks, opportunities, and link to strategy, you need to think about the flow — or value chain — of your business. From a corporate citizenship perspective, every element in this flow will illuminate opportunities and challenges. These line and support functions could have human rights implications, environmental impacts, activism issues, or energy and water requirements. When you look at the business flow, you’ll find the levers you can pull to create or enhance your citizenship program.

There may be too many to include in the first pass, although by mapping it out you’re uncovering the risks as well as the opportunities for your work. We will cover many key business functions in the following chapters, but this effort is more than an intellectual exercise. The deeper the examination of your business processes, the more value you will unlock.

A strategic "sweet spot" exists for your enterprise to deliver differentiated business results and social impact. Competitive and reputational advantage exists where your core competencies overlap a compelling environmental or social opportunity and the ability to measure or monetize that impact

Your competition

You’ve considered your company’s purpose, vision, strategy, processes, core competencies, employees and customers. Before you move forward, you need to look at your competition again from the corporate citizenship perspective.

You may think of competitors as businesses competing in the same product or service sector as your own, but there are many different ways to compete. It’s especially important to define your competition according to the key risks and opportunities in your business. For instance, there may be risks and opportunities in your supply chain which you’ve positioned yourself to deal with differently than your competitors. Or you might have some unique competitive advantage or disadvantage in distribution, sales or communications.

From a business perspective alone, never mind corporate citizenship, you could be competing with almost anyone. If your company wants to recruit the best and brightest employees, you can become better at recruiting by creating an engaging, inspiring workplace. When you know who you compete with — and in what arenas — you’ve begun to build a framework to differentiate your corporation from the competition.

From a corporate citizenship perspective, you could have a competitor outside of your sector because they’re competing with you on the ethical nature of their supply chain. It’s also important to consider your competition from the standpoint of reputation. If you were to walk around your local community and ask people who your competitors were, they might say the local hospital, university or nonprofit, because they’re viewing you all as members of a single community rather than as members of disparate industries.

If you are asking financial analysts about your competitive set, they will likely be assessing you against companies in the same industry, offering the same (or similar) services. If you are asking your HR leaders, they will be looking at companies across industries (and very likely geographies) to attract the best talent possible to your company. Understanding who your various stakeholders view as competitors is an important undertaking.

10 questions to ask your team before you move on 

1. What is the core purpose of our business? Do we know how our customers, and society in general, would describe it?

2. Can we describe what long-term success looks like for our business? Is this view understood across your organization?

3. Does our vision of success paint a picture, describe a feeling, and evoke value for our employees, customers and other stakeholders?

4. Have we mapped out our business processes and assessed them for risk and opportunity?

5. Have we identified elements of our current or planned corporate citizenship program that can help mitigate risks or achieve opportunities?

6. What are our company’s core competencies (what it does better than any other company on the planet)?

7. Are we exploiting our core competencies in your corporate citizenship? Or are we running a "me too" program?

8. Can we identify elements of our corporate citizenship program that do not connect to our purpose and/or core competencies? How might we reallocate the resources that these efforts consume?

9. Do we know who our competition is within both industry and reputation contexts?

10. Do we know how we compare to each competitor in each context?