With tumultuous financial markets, a terrifying real estate crisis, and the U.S. Presidential election dominating the news, trust and confidence is now at an all time low – especially among consumers and investors.
While the financial crisis is forcing policy-makers to rethink an overhaul of (and in some cases, return to) market regulation and oversight to benefit the U.S. economy and mitigate risk, businesses are cutting costs and laying people off.
It's rough out there. Peoples’ life savings are evaporating as they watch the very executives who engineered this crisis walk way with Golden Parachutes. Government and Corporate America can no longer ignore the grass roots movement of everyday citizens rejecting the hypocrisies of our existing structure. Ignoring health care, the environment, and education can no longer be accepted.
While we don’t know how long this economic fallout will endure, we can be certain that at the end a new social consciousness will prevail. The public at large is realizing that government and corporations have not been effectively self-policing.
Who Will Watch the Watchers Themselves?
Another key lesson to be learned from the recent failure of several prominent financial institutions is the realization that organizations still fail to embrace the power of practicing corporate responsibility (CR).
The Wall Street crisis is fundamentally changing the way society views sustainability and it is an opportunity for businesses to reshape the sustainability agenda to their advantage.
Meanwhile, social, economic and environmental concerns still rest on the frontlines and are not to be overlooked in the context of new crises that will continue to emerge today and tomorrow. In particular, global climate change remains a permanent threat and Africans’ life spans continue to decline owing largely to AIDS, 60% of whose worldwide victims are African. Not to mention the increasing number of people in the US infected and impacted by HIV/AIDS.
Never has there been a greater ‘Call to Action’ and opportunity for businesses to re-examine their sustainability agendas, maintain a long term focus and continue to realize the benefits amidst the current economic and political changes.
They need to reflect the interests of those who have stakes in their business and realize the consequences of overlooking them. For example:
Investors: Where art thou profit?
Employees: Need to be empowered and motivated
Taxpayers: Who will now foot the bill for the bailouts
Community Power: Build, connect and align with key relationships – globally and locally
Customers: Expect transparency and accountability to support and demonstrate their favorite brands/products responsible business and social practices
- Businesses must continue to address key sustainability issues like energy, climate change, disease and human rights concerns
- Boost their voluntary and philanthropic efforts top-to-bottom and with participation from their employees
- Maintain their reputations and boost trust by key stakeholders – especially consumers and investors
- Embrace new tools and technologies that can assist businesses to establish connected communities, better focus their philanthropic activities for employee opportunity and motivation
- As the giving season approaches, gain consensus from stakeholders about causes in need, align cause-related marketing and charitable contributions
- Collaborate and establish partnerships with fiscally healthy non-profits/NGOs that that have the necessary resources and depth of knowledge to develop community-driven campaigns
CEOs need to stop worrying about the next quarterly report, their own compensation packages and spend more time creating a culture of responsible practices and conduct.
In conclusion, navigating this crisis effectively underscores the importance of building a truly sustainable economy for the long term – that not only requires leadership from government, but from businesses, consumers and ‘society at large.’
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