Inside-Out framework creates a model to not only examine and challenge a company's status quo, but also to create authenticity – the gateway drug to trust and loyalty.
By Liz Brenna, Founder & CEO, Socially Good Business
Would you rather spend eight dollars for a burrito at Taco Bell or Chipotle? With every company wanting to be the next Whole Foods and millennials swearing by TOMS shoes, how are so many brands' genuine efforts still falling short?
It was while working for a beloved global brand (one that pioneered this global movement of business operating at a conscious, human level) that I began to piece together a working framework. Although, it wasn’t until I left to start my own company that I realized it is rarely utilized correctly.
Companies are competing with social responsibility and sustainability or what we have started calling societal and environmental integrity development (SEID (sēd)).
This isn’t an effort to add another buzzword to the mix, but our attempt to find a term that truly encompasses both social and ecological systems into practice—usually addressed separately. Implementation and assessment are ongoing (hence the inclusion of “development”), but the ROI is the most unsung hero of the movement.
When all is said and done, you can actually challenge impact operationally AND put SEID to work for your bottom line. I’ve seen it happen.
The kicker? It has to be done the right way – and the key is an Inside-Out framework.
The Inside-Out approach isn’t as simple as it sounds. There are a few guiding principles a company must adhere to, the most important being consistency.
By consistency I mean integrating practice into every nook and cranny of business, infusing SEID into company DNA. Most companies have a piecemeal approach: they take a single problem or operation, find a solution and apply it. Meaning, they address one problem, whether it be switching to FSC certified paper or supporting a cause-driven organization, and use it as a shield.
It’s tempting to brainstorm the most creative, splashy, consumer-facing campaign about “good programs” because this stuff is fun to brag about. While enthusiasm is marvelous, it must be coupled with prudence. Not even the splashiest campaign will overshadow faulty EPA compliance, supply chain under-supervision or questionable labor relations.
In order to be consistent and authentic, a company must look at itself as a system and use the same lens to approach all aspects of its business. This means walking-the-talk everywhere – from your own backyard down through your supply chain, benchmarking and setting standards across the board.
I know how much time, expertise and research it takes to do all of this. Worse, most companies tend to shove CSR or sustainability tasks under a myriad of departments and full-time roles, making it nearly impossible for team members to focus, research, experience, experiment and have enough resources to implement correctly. This is a systems flaw that forward-thinking companies have started to address by creating a dedicated position to lead sustainability and community action or set up a small team to help get the job done. Although, given the complexity of SEID, a three- or five-person team still means an understaffed and underfunded unit.
Learn It, Live It
The second guiding principle to the Inside-Out approach is employee education and engagement. The employee is the brand; employees create the how, what and why of your customers’ experience. In order to truly differentiate your brand as trustworthy, then you must enable employees to live and breathe everything your company does under the SEID umbrella—big and small.
This starts with education and gets reinforced by engagement.
Engaging and empowering employees sends a constant message to the team, ingrains integrity into company culture and allows them to start making decisions that align. The fundamental idea here is to infuse SEID as a way of company life, not an add-on that gets forgotten and reborn every quarter.
To accompany the Inside-Out framework, we’ve created a SEIDindex™:
The blue line highlights the progression: mission, policies, programming, education, story sharing and assessment. The arrow coming out of the assessment phase leads back to programming, and the process starts over again, but this time with experience, data and motivation to dig deeper and perform better for the next round. Those ‘R’s at every juncture signify “research.” A savvy brand must stay on top of industry research and best practices while keeping an eye on the competition.
All in all, the Inside-Out framework creates a model to not only examine and challenge a company’s status quo, but also to create authenticity – the gateway drug to trust and loyalty.
When customers are given a choice of products or services of equal quality, integrity becomes the deciding factor. Humans innately want to be a part of something bigger, support something greater through decisions and easy applications. Educating and enabling them to do that by supporting the good your company does creates genuinely loyal and happy customers. The same goes for employees, keeping them steady and working with passion.
A double dose of ROI, harnessing the most powerful weapon for business: the human heart.
About the Author:
Liz Brenna is Founder & CEO of Socially Good Business, a WBENC & B Corp certified social enterprise that partners with companies big and small. Liz has been a keynote speaker for a myriad of academic institutions, professional groups and community organizations and has been featured in outlets such as USA Today and Good Morning America. More thought leadership at www.sociallygoodbusiness.com. Connect with her at @SociallyGoodBiz or on Facebook.