Sarah Campbell Donia, global head of business, innovation and strategy communications at Royal Philips, joined us to discuss how global organizations are navigating today’s sociopolitical climate and bringing their perspective to these often U.S. centric conversations.
Until recently, it was rare for companies to take a stance on controversial social issues but due to the growing importance of support from stakeholders, organizations today are more likely to speak out. The global pandemic and recent killing of George Floyd has sparked corporate leaders to weigh in, get involved and take an intentional look in the mirror. This raises the question of why some topics are becoming globally relevant for some companies, but not for others.
Today, business decisions are made in real-time and organizations have to act quickly. This poses a unique challenge for multinational organizations on how to balance addressing their local and global audiences. How does a company ensure they are devoting the right amount of focus to a U.S. centric issue without ignoring global inclusion efforts and vice-versa?
Global organizations have to be mindful that although their teams may be U.S.-based, they have stakeholders all over the world. This is why to be globally sustainable, it is essential to bring in a diverse group of leaders into the decision-making process to ensure you are honoring everyone’s values and cultures around the world. This can be especially challenging today due to the rapid spread of communication.
In a recent article, Mark Bain noted that multinational companies are speaking out on injustices across the world, except in China. Although China faces escalating human rights problems, companies have not publicly criticized the country. Many believe these reluctance is due to the fear of retaliation from China. For example, there is a higher risk to publicly criticizing China than there is to Facebook. Unilever, Volkswagen and Microsoft are among the list of companies suspending advertisements on Facebook. This is a perfect example of how some companies are making different decisions locally versus globally.
Organizations also need to ensure they are taking a stand for the right reason, not just because it is what their competitors are doing. Before making a decision, organizations should determine how it aligns with their values and will impact their stakeholders. It is also helpful to communicate the “why” to your stakeholders. Explain the reason you are taking these actions, and why you’re prioritizing this issue over another. This will help your stakeholders better understand your decision making process and avoid friction in the future.