As the nature and structure of brands continue to evolve towards new business models (products as services) and more robust sustainability commitments (sustainable mass transportation), so too has their role expanded beyond purely self-serving economic gains to influencing social and environmental regulation. Today’s progressive brands recognize the need for private sector’s involvement and voice across national policy making as critical in creating change towards a more sustainable economic system. The notion of the Circular Economy, backed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, speaks to the partnership that private sector and government must have, in addition to involvement from academic, non-profit and other economic stakeholders, to establish a positive, restorative economy.
As the role of brands becomes more fluid, we start to see the positive effects in policy when leading companies demonstrate support in setting or amending legislation.
In support of the proposed Equality Act – legislation that would ban discrimination against LGBT Americans at their jobs, homes and schools – corporate heavy weights including Facebook, Apple, General Mills, Google, Nike, and more, have all voiced support and intention to sign onto the anti-discrimination legislation. Not only does this apply pressure to existing and forthcoming policy, it also signals a clear message to consumers and employees – past, present and future – around each brand’s beliefs and values. As Nike expressed in a statement why it was supporting this bill, “We believe that diversity drives innovation and allows us to attract and retain world class talent. We need fair and equitable laws that prevent discrimination.”
We saw a similar showing earlier this year, where some of the same brands responded to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) introduced in Indiana. This time, however, corporate leaders rallied against the legislation for its discriminatory justification capacity based upon sexual orientation or gender identity. From boycotts to highly publicized opposing opinions of global brand leaders, such as Tim Cook’s op-ed piece in The Washington Post, the state received incredible backlash which threatened the future state of its economy. Brands also took to social media to voice their partnership with each other against the bill.
Ultimately, the strength of the organizations voice of opposition prevailed, and the Act was amended shortly following its introduction.
Beyond social equity, the dynamic influence of brands extends to environmental impact where organizations such as BICEP unite key business stakeholders and Congress to progress legislation around energy and climate change.
As the landscape in which brands operate is ever changing, which environmental and/or social impact issues will your brand be prepared to take a stand on?