12 Sep SERIES: Elevating brand belonging through responsible business practices
Welcome to the first instalment of our Communication that Matters (CTM) blog series, a dedicated deep dive into our 2023 Communication that Matters report, ‘Elevating brand belonging through responsible business practices‘.
In this article, we provide an overview of responsible business, highlighting the connections to the concept of ‘belonging’ and laying down the foundation for our upcoming articles.
In a world plagued by crises and rapid change, businesses and their leaders face a new imperative: to truly understand and respond to the needs of the Australian community. As expectations soar, the demand for tangible impact across issues like climate change, social impact, diversity and inclusion, ethical supply chains, recognition of First Nations people and good corporate governance grows louder. Alongside this, the importance of upholding business integrity cannot be ignored.
Enter the realm of responsible businesses—the true change-makers. These visionary companies not only make measurable strides in addressing societal challenges but also foster a profound sense of belonging both within and beyond their organisations. They emerge as catalysts for social transformation, infusing their brand with purpose and earning the unwavering trust and loyalty of consumers, employees, shareholders, government entities, suppliers, and the community at large.
This is the magic of brand belonging—an undeniable connection that unites people with an organisation, its products, services, and its people, establishing an unbreakable bond.
What is a responsible business?
According to the Organisation for Responsible Businesses, a responsible business operates efficiently and ethically, meets and exceeds legislation and always considers its impact on people (the workforce, the community and society and large) and the environment.
Truly responsible businesses embed their social responsibility values into every aspect of operating their business. This means even seed-stage startups should be building these values into their upfront business plans.
The elements touched by responsible business practices include: employees (ensuring staff are trained, engaged and motivated, and that diversity is welcomed and encouraged), the environment (the business is actively working to lower its carbon footprint), the community (understanding the needs of the local community and supporting it where possible, including sourcing products, services and talent locally), and the marketplace (ensuring the supply chain, suppliers, distributors, and customers are all managed and treated ethically).
How do we define belonging?
According to the organisation Great Place to Work, belonging occurs when people feel like they are being treated as an ‘insider’; when their unique needs are recognised and their values affirmed. Belonging is when there is alignment between the individual’s needs and values, and those of the organisation. The organisation then acts to not only recognise but respond to those needs and values, which also shift over time. Belonging is also good for business.
Why belonging and a responsible business are interchangeable
According to the organisation Great Place to Work, belonging occurs when people feel like they are being treated as an ‘insider’; when their unique needs are recognised and their values affirmed. Belonging is when there is alignment between the individual’s needs and values, and those of the organisation. The organisation then acts to not only recognise but respond to those needs and values, which also shift over time.
Responsible businesses have a deep understanding of the communities they impact. Those communities range from internal stakeholders (employees, investors) to external stakeholders (customers, consumers and individuals in the locations featured across the supply chain).
Understanding the needs and values of these communities, and aligning a business accordingly, brings about belonging and supports responsible business growth. In short, prioritising belonging gives organisations a social license to operate.
An example of this comes from FMCG giant Unilever, which takes a community-driven approach to being a responsible business. The first line on its responsible business page sets the scene: “We know that our stakeholders care deeply about the same issues we care about.” Unilever goes into detail on each of these key issues, providing authentic and transparent insight backed up by tangible examples showing what they are doing to make a difference.
This commitment to responsibility then feeds down into Unilever’s individual brands, with each brand having specific purposes that ladder up to the company’s overall responsible business strategy and tailored to a specific community.
Unilever’s mayonnaise brand Hellman’s, for example, strives to tackle food waste in the home. Hellman’s set the foundations for doing this with a product truth that “mayonnaise can turn leftovers into new and tasty meals”. From there it focuses on ensuring there is minimal waste in its supply chain and factories, and that it is encouraging consumers to waste less food. Linked to its product truth, Hellman’s brand platform “Make Taste, Not Waste” has inspired over 200 million people to be more resourceful with their food and has helped the company to grow by 10% in 2020 and 11% in 2021.
Understanding how to foster belonging
From Henkel to Ferrero, from Crowdstrike to the Australian War Widows New South Wales, at Sefiani, we work with local and global organisations navigating their way through change to create positive impact. Over the past twelve months, our clients have increasingly engaged us to help them create a deeper sense of connection, belonging, and loyalty between their organisation and its stakeholders.
Our team has been responsible for crafting Employee Value Propositions, supporting CEOs’ internal communications during times of crisis, building external corporate reputations, and creating content for internal change management programs. The one challenge all our clients continue to grapple with however, is how to use their communications to drive meaningful impact and integrity, while fostering inclusion and belonging.
In our next article, we’ll discuss understanding and satisfying basic needs as a brand in a dynamic environment, and what it means for communicators on the front lines.
Interesting in learning more?
If you’re interested in learning more about our belonging framework or organising a meeting with our team to deep dive into the findings of the report, we’d love to hear from you. Just reach out and we can arrange a free consultation with our communications experts.