Have you heard of rainbow-washing? It’s a term coined by Wayne Visser, professor of integrated value and chair in sustainable transformation at Antwerp Management School. It’s where the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been co-opted for corporate PR-spin. Companies have been seen using the colourful SDG icons for little more than marketing, without doing anything fundamentally different.
Like greenwashing, such actions undermine genuine sustainability achievements and erode consumer confidence. Combine this with the current divisive political climate, the rise of fake news and big business tax shenanigans, it’s little wonder that people feel disillusioned. Yet trust is the lifeblood of all organisations, arguably the single biggest determinant of success. Indeed, behavioural insights researchers say that social trust is one of the most important and underappreciated economic indicators that we possess.
Restoring trust in business is one of Dame Inga Beale’s key motivations. The former CEO of Lloyds of London and keynote speaker at this year’s Global Good Awards, sponsored by Revive, acknowledges society’s ‘trust deficit’ and is a keen supporter of the Lord Mayor of London’s Business of Trust programme.
The programme developed a set of CIVIC principles to guide trustworthy behaviour in business. They are:
- Competence and Skills – being capable and doing what you do well
- Integrity – being honest, straightforward and reliable
- Value to Society – recognising and meeting wider societal needs
- Interest in Others – taking account of and respecting the interests of customers, employees, investors and all other stakeholders
- Clear Communications – being open, transparent, responsive and accountable.
Beale believes that ‘Interests in Others’ is key, particularly for businesses that provide services. “It has to be all about the customer,” she says. “It is important that we put the interests of others first. We have to make sure that we are listening to them and designing products and services around them.”
So how else can businesses build trust? Beale deems ’empowering the front line’ as a solid foundation. “I often think about how I feel as a customer. I like to think if I’m phoning up I’m going to get an empathetic human at the end of the line to deal with my enquiry. One way of ensuring that and building that trusted relationship is by empowering your front line people who deal with customers day in, day out. Hopefully that way a business will be giving exactly the services that customers need.”
Beale also considers publishing a company CEO’s contact details a huge positive, accessibility being an important part of the trust equation. Throughout her tenure as CEO of Lloyds of London her contact details – email and telephone number – were available to all. “It is one way of being genuine, open and approachable,” she says.
Businesses can also restore trust through better story telling. “We seldom talk about the good we do,” she says. In the world of insurance, for example, insurers are often ‘derisking’ small business expansions and making it safer for people to go on holiday. “But we don’t necessarily tell our story well enough. And it’s that supporting of society that we sometimes overlook. If we can tell our story in a compelling way, we can start to build trust much more. ”
Dame Inga Beale DBE will be speaking at this year’s Global Good Awards ceremony on 19 June at BMA House. For further information and to book, click here.
Read more about the Business of Trust programme here.