We’ll begin with the small stuff. Endorser Rick Ross degrades women, and Reebok pays. A sleazy supplier sells Ikea horse meatballs and Ikea pays. A basketball coach bullies his players and Rutgers pays. No consumer brand or any other institution can escape scandal anymore unharmed.
Enforced transparency (your every action and inaction searchable on Google in perpetuity) and social media have not only taken every institution from its fortress and relocated it to a glass house -- the whole world is standing outside that house, gaping in.
This is a really good time in history, therefore, for business to behave itself -- in ways large and small. That means being good to those who depend on you. Customers, employees, neighbors, suppliers, shareholders, the trade -- everybody, everywhere.
And now to the big stuff -- the unbearably big stuff.
Everywhere means even the Third World, where all those wretched poor people are crammed into factories laboring long hours for pitiful wages, because those pitiful wages represent their only escape from grinding poverty. Let’s just assume that the garment and electronics companies that exploit the plight of the poor are also offering low-wage workers opportunity and lifting them into a semblance of the middle class. Let’s just say.
But here’s a splendid idea: just because they are humble and uneducated and desperate and you know, swarthy, don’t use your $38 per month to lure them into a deathtrap.
Perhaps you are Benetton or Children's Place or Loblaw, and are struggling with the recent Bangladesh tragedy that killed more than 500 garment workers when the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed. These factories were owned and operated by contractors, and the dead employees were not directly on your payrolls. It is the owners who put those lives at risk, and the corrupt, ineffectual government that failed to flag shoddy construction. Halfway around the world, how could you have known?
There’s an answer to that non-rhetorical question: Because it was your responsibility to know. People are sewing goods for you? It behooves you to have and enforce standards, period. Those victims were just as much working for you as the sales clerks at the local mall, and you owed it to them, at the barest minimum, to certify safe working conditions. You can outsource manufacturing, but you cannot outsource morality.
And you also can’t outsource backlash. Here it comes.
@angela_joya MT @JanoCharbel Companies guilty of killing and injuring #Bangladesh workers: #Benetton#ChildrensPlace, #Loblaws#Mango#Primark & #Walmart
Blonde_Phantom @Blonde_Phantom #Bangladesh business leader points finger at western retailers huff.to/18wwwer#mango#h&m #primark#kik#benetton & many more...
martina sorco @martinasorco United horrors of Benetton #Bangladesh
Most of the brands tied to the collapsed complex have pledged financial aid to survivors and to the injured. Whether this bespeaks corporate conscience or cynical crisis management is something we cannot know. What we can know is that for the victims and for brand reputation those efforts will be vastly too little, tragically too late. What Foxxcon hinted at, Rana Plaza has made all too clear.
Times have changed. There is no hiding from your failures. If you cannot motivate yourself with the mere calculus of right and wrong, think about the value of your reputation. Remember Benetton, which having postured insufferably for 20 years as holier than thou, is now consigned to worldwide opprobrium.
Remember Benetton, and remember Bangladesh.