For too long, companies have managed their external personas separately from their internal identities. That meant a gap between perceptions and reality, and that gap grew even wider with the introduction of CSR – which was managed as a separate initiative rather than woven into the company’s DNA. But these gaps are becoming less and less tenable in a world of transparency and scrutiny.
VW is a great example: a company that was founded with a strong purpose at heart (build affordable and accessible “people’s cars”) became bigger and better over the years, and a decade ago decided to set a new and ambitious commercial target above everything else: become the world’s biggest automaker by 2018. This has created a culture that placed size and market share at the heart of the organization. At the same time VW pursued admirable CSR initiatives that awarded it among other things a place on the FTSE ethical index. But as Dieselgate unfolded it became clear that the reality at VW was far removed from its ethical reputation and its brand promise. VW’s commercially-driven purpose has shaped a culture that tolerated – and perhaps even encouraged – dishonest, irresponsible and illegal behavior. VW has lost its character, and it didn’t take long for the world to find out.
The notion of Corporate Character sets out to eliminate the internal/external, reality/perception gap. It’s about building companies who are at once both unique and authentic – who are driven by a purpose that revolves not just around their own desires and commercial goals, but also around the needs of the world around them. Companies who understand that it’s not enough to build a strong brand and have a good reputation – but that behavior and integrity are key ingredients in living up to promises and purposes. These will be the companies who win their stakeholders’ trust and affection in this unforgiving world of diminishing faith in business. And they will benefit from people’s consideration, preference and advocacy. Caliber is here to help them achieve that and at the same time help make the world of business better.