View from a Millennial: Why Businesses Need to Embrace Transparency

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Nearly two centuries have passed since the UK Parliament first passed the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 decreeing to end slavery in (most of) the British Empire. The legislation came after years of struggle and public movements against the slave trade and it took nearly three more decades for the United States to follow suit.

Now it’s 2016. And we’re all so preoccupied by technology and the daily race to survive in this neoliberal world, that we barely stop to think – ‘Who made my iPhone?’ or ‘Where was my coffee grown?’ Goals. Commitments. Deadlines. Plans for the Future. Savings. That house. Retirement…the to-do list never ends. And we rush through life ticking boxes on the checklist. Especially the entrepreneurs and CEOs out there, yes you! Slow down.

It’s 2016! There is a new generation of young adults – Gen Y, The Millennials. We are intensely connected with the world, even if it’s only through our questionably produced, definitely not ‘Made in California’ iPhone screens. We are smart, skeptical and supremely social and we like to know what’s going on. We now KNOW that laws abolishing slavery were just words on 200 year old paper. People are enslaved still, whether it’s forced labour within the cocoa industry in Africa’s Ivory Coast, illegal mining in Jharkhand, India, or even exploitation of seasonal labour in the UK. They’re bought, sold and treated like commodities – and this IS a SERIOUS problem.

In today’s environment businesses cannot simply compete to make financial value – their customers and employees expect them to work on the social and environmental value of their organisation as well. There is little that can be swept under the rug in the hope that the outside world doesn’t notice or care. We millennials may get enticed by ingenious social media campaigns once in awhile, but our smartphones also give us access to more data than ever before on how a company operates behind closed doors, and when we find out that the public and private personas don’t match we don’t take long to snap back to reality. We are conscious of the murkiness that lies behind opaque business operations and we won’t buy into your brand. So, coming from a millennial – please consider this case for transparency in business?

 

No. 5: Be AWARE. Ignorance is no bliss.

We all now have information from all over the globe at the click of a button. You can’t possibly claim that you “don’t know” how your industry’s activities are affecting populations or impacting environmental and social set-ups. We millennials are young, not naive. And neither should you be. It’s your responsibility to know. So be the CEO, and stay on top of what your organization is doing. If you don’t really know what’s going on all the way down your supply chains then work on finding out! Start with simple questions, then dig deeper. Being aware of the problem is the first step to solving it. But you already know that. Right?

 

No. 4:  Don’t shy away from mistakes. Accept them.

Everyone has competing priorities. At some point we need to make the tough calls. And when the world follows you on Twitter – it’s probably best to own up, apologize and try to fix the problem, rather than trying to hide and hope the Twitterati won’t find you. Seriously – once it’s out there, that’s the worst that could happen and it should motivate you to steer the organization in the right direction. Don’t be bogged down by a setback. Embrace it, try to fix it and do better. If giant global brands like Nestle can own up to slavery in their supply chain, so can you. Being forthcoming only made their brand look better – and more human.

 

No. 3: Engage. Inform. Sustain.

We tend to like whacky new concepts and we’re curious to know how stuff works. Tell us. This CEO is so great because his Transparency Project idea was a random experiment in telling us the “behind-the-scenes soup-to-nuts” story of how MegaFood operates. It’s better than getting gruesome exposés of the meat processing industry anyway. Plus, it gives you an incentive to put best practices in place, because you know the world’s going to be watching. Like these companies did. You’ll set higher standards and boost customer satisfaction. Win-Win!

 

No. 2: Positive outlook draws positive people.

We all want great people working with us, don’t we? It looks great on a company’s profile when it’s ranked highly on employee satisfaction and it helps attract the best talent. This is a result of not just transparent business operations but also transparent management and HR process. Transparency all the way!

And you’re still wondering if it really is a good idea? Well, here’s the most important one..

 

No. 1: Building Trust = Building Brand Loyalty.

Transparent businesses, trusting consumers and trustworthy employees. Sounds like the perfect success story for years to come. Of course, it’s not all that easy. It will take work, it will be difficult to change established structures, and it may involve short term costs. But, we need to keep our eye on the prize – a world rid of modern slavery, and honest and open businesses making no negative social impact.

 

Don’t worry, ChainChecked is here to help! And if you’re just looking for a guide to sustainable decision making for your business, this may help.