What Value our Values?

What Value our Values?

Tough times make for tough decisions.   When crisis looms it can make sense to jettison all but the essential activities for survival.   But what does this mean for our values and our purpose? 

Recently I attended an event where the Travel Counsellors CEO spoke about the importance of sticking to values.   In his words “it is easy to let your values go when things get tough”.    He discussed how his organisation got through the COVID19 crisis – a particularly difficult time for a travel business.   It would have been easy for a business whose model is reliant on self-employed ‘counsellors’ to pull everything back.    Instead, they went back to their principles.   He told us that they “honoured our customers”, they looked after their agents as well as they could (albeit being self-employed many had to find alternative employment) and set up a hardship fund for those counsellors in difficulty.    I can’t speak to how true he and his organisation really are to their values, but he considered sticking to them was the single most important factor that enabled them to survive and now thrive. It generated much talk with other delegates at the event about sticking to purpose, principles and values.

A strong and growing feature of business in the 2020s is consumers’ and employees’ desire, to align themselves with brands and companies that share their environmental, social, political and moral, values. We see it nearly every day, through brand campaigns and social media reactions to corporate missteps.

A 2020 study reveals that when consumers think a brand has a strong Purpose, they are:   

  • 4 times more likely to purchase from the company   
  • 6 times more likely to protect the company in the event of a misstep or public criticism   
  • 4.5 times more likely to champion the company and recommend it to friends and family   
  • 4.1 times more likely to trust the company   

It is also clear that we increasingly seek personal value and purpose at work.   We’ve just seen the “Great Resignation” after the pandemic as people have re-evaluated what they want from their jobs and employers.   We’re also hearing the term “Quiet Quitting” – employees taking time out whilst working remotly to do things that they value (whilst doing the bare minimum to meet their commitment to their employers – something the trade unions used to describe as ‘work to rule’).

In 2019, Boston Consulting Group heralded the new decade as a new era for authenticity and corporate responsibility “The defining expectation: good companies and investments will deliver competitive financial returns while helping society meet its biggest challenges, and in so doing will enable sustainable business”.   McKinsey talk about embedding purpose to deliver value– with 3 out of their 5 points of focus relating to personal values.

A very recent example of values-based, purpose-based leadership saw Yvon Chouinard, billionaire CEO of outdoor clothing brand Patagonia, donate his shareholding and future profits to an environmental non-profit trust.   For Chouinard this was the only way that Patagonia’s values – including protecting nature – could be protected. 

Staying true to values and purpose takes strength and it requires honest appraisal and reflection.  Questioning and challenging decisions, actions and our reasoning behind them.

The war in Ukraine has highlighted the need for big brands to consider whether they trade in / with Russia.   The 2022 Qatar World Cup will also see sponsors scrutinised for their position on corporate and social responsibility in the context of concerns over human rights and the treatment of workers in the host country.

We recently undertook project work in Saudi Arabia.  It gave me pause for thought given cultural differences and some well publicised controversies.   The central value to JMCL is being Enlightened – so we undertook the work with an open mind, ensured we put aside prejudice and set about learning for ourselves about the country, people and its business.  It proved to be an incredibly enlightening experience.

Our values and purpose should not be compromised – even in tough times.  Their benefit comes not only from client, employer and partner loyalty but also from examining how we measure up to them.    It leads to new insights, opens minds, challenges prejudices and strengthens motivation.   We didn’t have to hand over billions like Yvon Chouinard, but we’re definitely better for the experience of examining and sticking to our values.