As companies are embedding themselves more and more into people’s lives through technology, establishing trust has become a key consideration. Primarily, these conversations about trust have focused on consumers: how do you convince people that they should trust you with their data, or let you and your technology into their homes and personal lives?
With the push to answer these and similar questions, businesses have lost sight of another key imperative around trust. Yes, you must earn the trust of your consumers. But you have to work just as hard to earn it from everyone else you’re partnering with, or undermine your own future growth. You want to partner with other companies or with governments to expand your business, create new offerings, or reach new markets, but they also need to know that they can trust you. And they won’t unless you hold yourself to a high—and public—standard.
Unilever’s Chief Marketing Officer, Keith Weed, proved that the British-Dutch consumer goods company is paying close attention to the values and activities of the businesses it associates with. At the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual leadership meeting, Weed announced that Unilever would pull advertisements from Facebook, Google, and other major platforms if the companies don’t take active steps to filter content that breeds division or spreads hate.
Speaking at the IAB, Weed said that Unilever “does not want to advertise on platforms which do not make a positive contribution to society.” Coming from a company that spent $9.4 billion in global marketing last year, that’s a pretty strong incentive for digital giants to take a good look at their own labels.
Governments are scrutinizing partnerships and investments, as well. The exploitation of earthquake survivors in Haiti has left Oxfam, one of the most prominent global relief agencies, threatened with losing millions in governmental funding—both due to the scandal itself, and its handling of the allegations.
Speaking to BBC News about the scandal, Britain’s international development secretary Penny Mordaunt said that organizations must meet standards at the highest levels of leadership if they want to continue their associations with the British government.
"It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got a whistleblowing hotline, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got good safeguarding practices in place. If the moral leadership at the top of the organization isn't there, then we cannot have you as a partner," said Mordaunt.
Societal expectations from present and potential partners, whether consumers, governments, employees, or other businesses, are a particular challenge for companies that have created innovative platforms and services. It’s much like the startups that sprang into existence during the dot-com era, only to be forced to step back and flesh out traditional business models to survive and thrive. Companies that have innovated their way into society are now under pressure to present clear expectations for how their societal interactions will play out.
Working to develop and meet those expectations is a commitment to a reimagined relationship with people, recognizing that companies and their technologies have an enormous impact on people’s lives. It’s not just business anymore; it’s personal. As companies build and extend their ecosystems, individuals and organizations with goals and ideals that match their own will be natural partners. The commitments a company makes will become the “nutritional value” information that people are searching for—and the foundation for future revolutionary growth.
Michael Biltz is the Managing Director of the Accenture Technology Vision. Visit the 2018 Technology Vision website to download the report, watch overview videos and interviews, and dive into the discussion.