The importance of corporate character in today’s business world
For too long, companies have managed their external personas separately from their internal identities. That has created a gap between perceptions and reality, which has grown even wider with the introduction of CSR – especially when managed as a separate initiative rather than woven into the company’s DNA. As these gaps are becoming less and less tenable in a world of transparency and scrutiny, having a strong corporate character is more important than ever.
Volkswagen: A cautionary tale
Volkswagen 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 led to a corporate culture that placed size and market share at the heart of the organization while at the same time pursuing admirable CSR initiatives that resulted, among other things, in 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 brand promise.
VW’s commercially-driven purpose had shaped a culture that tolerated – and perhaps even encouraged – dishonest, irresponsible, and illegal behavior. VW had lost its character, and it didn’t take long for the world to discover it.
The need for authenticity and integrity
The notion of corporate character sets out to eliminate the internal/external, reality/perception gap.
It’s about building companies that are at once both unique and authentic and 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 that understand that it’s not enough to build a strong brand and have a good reputation – 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, support, and advocacy.
Caliber is here to help them achieve that and, at the same time, help make the world of business better.