In 2016, in the face of the so-called “bathroom bill” Target announced that its transgender team members and guests “were welcome to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.” Despite an anti-LGBT boycott of the store, the losses were “too insignificant to report.”
In the face of the Trump administration’s introduction of a travel ban for immigrants from seven Muslim countries, Starbucks announced it will hire 10,000 refugees globally over the next five years. The immediate angry reaction came from people asking “why not hire veterans instead of immigrants?” only to learn that Starbucks has already hired thousands of veterans and their spouses. A commitment to immigrants deepens the existing commitment to employ marginalized and misunderstood populations.
When the White House pulled out of the Paris Agreement, hundreds of public and private companies (including Siren), cities and states, and NGOs, refused to back down from commitments to address our most urgent vulnerability: climate change. Through We Are Still In and a variety of other visible and behind the scenes efforts, brands have stepped into a void left critically open by our government.
According to Cone Communication’s 2017 CSR report, consumers are no longer asking companies what they stand for, they’re asking what they stand UP for. It’s an important idea, especially right now when it feels like our beliefs are being used as ammunition in Washington.
Being a brand that “stands up for something” doesn’t mean being strident or political or high risk. It means honoring your customer, protecting critical resources, and, importantly, living into your brand purpose.
Think about the brands that DON’T live into the issues that people care about. At the May 31st shareholder meeting, more than 63% of ExxonMobil shareholders voted to “instruct the oil giant to report on the impact of global measures designed to keep climate change to 2 degrees centigrade.” This request had fallen on deaf ears for years. ExxonMobil had literally years of warning, years to address this issue and start reporting, which is common practice for more than 85% of Fortune 500 companies. And now its hand is forced because while its campaign “Energy Lives Here” was communicating that the company stood for a positive energy future, it did not stand UP for a positive energy future in the ways that really matter.
This isn’t a totally new idea – how long have I have been pushing #deletuber? – but it’s one that’s getting more traction and more urgency. I guess I am like the 57% of people who feel that corporate America needs to play a more active role in addressing important social issues. And yes, I will absolutely stand up for a brand that stands up for the values I care about – namely freedom, equality and access.