Make alliances, not war, with crusading external stakeholders
Increasingly, the attitudes of consumers are being shaped by an array of advocacy organizations that research and campaign on various social and political causes collectively categorized as non-government organizations (NGOs). They are the key driver in the public's increasing demand that corporations act in a socially responsible way. This means not only offering products and services that do not pose new environmental or social risks but also doing business in a way that supports the livelihood of people in the producing nations and sustainability of our planet's eco-systems. NGOs are powerful with consumers because they are significantly more trusted overall than business. CEOs and corporate managers may approve or disapprove of the growing role of activist NGOs, but it is perilous to ignore their growing influence and ability to shape public perceptions of a company. There are seven guiding principles for successfully engaging the NGOs: (1) act and respond as one global brand, making certain that, for example, the environmental practices by a unit in Spain are consistent with the corporate position in the USA; (2) prepare for greater transparency, reporting social and environmental impacts as well as financial information is a starting point for building greater trust and dialogue with the NGOs; (3) do not be forced into a "yes-or-no" public confrontation on any issue; (4) enlist and engage multiple partners and perspectives on business practices and strategies; (5) do not rely solely on industry-wide action, or hide behind it; (6) distinguish between an NGO's rhetoric and its actual objectives; and (7) know when to stand your ground.
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