I’m currently enjoying the book The Responsibility Revolution, co-authored by Seventh Generation founder Jeffrey Hollender. A few key points are coming to the surface for me from this book:
- Truly responsible business efforts need to be done first and foremost because they actually matter for the company. If the driving reason is to have a good story to tell, then the initiative will fall flat.
- Innovation is a motivating frame for responsible business. Embedded in that idea is the notion that responsible business practices can drive profitability, before you even consider PR value.
A short hand way of saying all of this might be “to do responsible business successfully, you need to really mean it.”
The book’s chapter Authentically Good looks at the 2008 launch of the Nike Jordan 23rd anniversary shoe, the Air Jordan XX3, with a great quote from a member of Nike’s in-house sustainability group:
“We all want to do even more around sustainability…but we don’t feel the need to say more. The most important thing is that we do the work that needs to be done, and let the result speak for itself.”
And sure enough, the original press release for the Air Jordan XX3 mentions sustainability, but doesn’t make a huge deal of it.
On a related note, the book mentions that Jordan was initially not interested in the push to make the shoe more sustainable, but when he saw the end result, he became a believer in what was possible. In the ongoing process of bringing more awareness to sustainability issues, and possibilities, this was a huge win.
When responsible business practices are also good for business itself, before any PR gain, then they are most likely to take hold and make a difference.