How can you be more transparent, and at the same time grow your business through social responsibility without feeling naked? 2014 was declared by the European Union as the year of the ugly vegetables. At the beginning of that same year, a cooperative under the name Fruta Feia began operations in Portugal. Its single objective was to provide their consumers with fruits and vegetables that, despite not looking “pretty”, were still nutritious. TV commercials that showcased the value of the beauty within these vegetables, rather than their ugly appearance were also launched. Soon, we found ourselves remembering those long-forgotten days when, as children, we loudly celebrated as champions those of us who found the ugliest strawberry in the patch.
Now, wouldn’t it be great if supermarkets had a section dedicated to ugly fruits and vegetables? Or if we made “doggy bags” fashionable in restaurants around the world? Or if we invented digital apps to help us calculate the accurate amount of food we need at home? That way we could help achieve the goal of raising awareness about the amount of wasted food, and we would be promoting tangible change. Also, we would become closer to our consumers who we know are thinking the same thing. Surely these efforts would allow us to join forces and boost the movement towards social responsibility.
The answers to these questions are being designed and implemented as we speak, by entrepreneurs who are convinced that the best solutions will be rewarded with the loyalty and admiration of their consumers, as well as of their providers. They believe that the digital era and its revolutionary way of sharing information has made us live within a phenomenon that has a name: transparency. A term that not only encompasses and demands knowing everything about a product or service of outstanding quality, but that also asks companies to allow the public to know the way in which the product is produced. This therefore allows us to be sure that it causes the least amount of damage to the environment and to society. And better yet if it makes an attempt to do something for the greater good. In other words, transparency is social responsibility at the epitome of its expression.
Conquering The Transparency Trek
Everything began with alcohol. “Alcohol consumption will be prohibited at any occasion and under any circumstance!” Who thought that prohibition would actually work? A bunch of well-intentioned people who believed that, in the same way they did, the point of life was to obey the rules, period.
Alcohol prohibition turned out to be an awful idea. It was an economic disaster that is estimated to have diverted two billion dollars to the last place they should have gone: the underbelly of society. But a few years later, after having reinstated its legality, everyone had learned their lesson, and because of this the alcohol industry made social-responsibility their banner.
The producers got together and agreed to promote moderate consumption of alcohol, to create headlines that spoke of the dangers of excess, and generate measures that would help their customers drink with moderation. These are all clear messages of social-responsibility. Because as good hosts, the industry participants understood that an interest in the wellness of their consumers was the key to a long relationship.
Seeing Opportunity In The Final Frontier
Today, those lessons have become more important than ever. We are a species that lives within societies, and we love that. Not only does our population growth rate increases every day, but in addition to this phenomena, we have invented digital communication. The result? We are more informed and closer than ever to the things we do. For the first time in history behaving always correctly, makes sense. In return, we receive friendship and a good reputation. I know, I know. There are also those who behave badly that are having a blast, but even though they seem like the majority because of the uproar they create, they really are the minority.
Becoming part of the frenetic conversations on social media is a great opportunity for all businesses that want to befriend their consumers. Because by entering into a frank and transparent relationship with consumers, companies can learn how to improve the products they manufacture, and can also become allies in social causes and philosophical points of view.
The only thing left is to sit back and think about who we are as a business and manifest it through acts of social responsibility—that not only help define and change us, but that also allow us to envision who we want to be and who we want to share our journey with. The rules are not new or strange, they are the same ones that we apply to true friendships: empathy, honesty and affection.