There are many ways to make your organisation more socially purposeful. We always advocate building a Social Purpose into the core of your business, and aligned with your unique strategy, activity and values. But some things hold true across the spectrum, as a starting point for becoming a business that believes in doing the right thing. Addressing modern slavery is one of those.
Awareness of the issue is growing, both in the business sector and beyond, to customers, employees and other stakeholders. And Verity London was delighted to visit hosts Salesforce as they held the launch of a new initiative to tackle modern slavery in business, by the inspirational charity Unseen.
It was amazing to see so many influential organisations there, engaging with the issue and wanting to do more. In the words of Unseen Director, Justine Currell – ‘doing good business’. But one question from the floor raised an issue. For businesses who are beginning to tackle the challenge of modern slavery from a supply chain that can be huge, there’s a fear around communicating the work they are doing – and even celebrating success. By putting it out there, can business start difficult conversations with customers and stakeholders. And will they still be criticised, regardless of their efforts, because they aren’t perceived as doing enough?
To an extent, the person asking the question also had the answer. His view was that businesses should be more honest about the scale of the challenge and communicate in a way that reflects the difficulties as well as the successes. And he’s right. Whilst there have been occasions where companies have got it wrong whilst trying to do right – either by being accused of ‘purpose-washing’, or by being found wanting on an issue they claim to champion – authenticity is the key to taking the fear away from communications around sensitive issues such as addressing modern slavery.
Our message to businesses is always to be transparent about the challenge, and talk to audiences in a way that explains your story, being honest about the reality and progress. But demonstrating how you are committed to doing your best and that this is an issue you care about and are taking steps to tackle.
If you can show empathy with an issue, and demonstrate your authentic commitment to tackling modern slavery beyond a statement on your website which has no substance behind it, you are already doing more than many. And as Unseen made clear at their event – this isn’t about blaming businesses or customers. It’s about supporting them to help make change. And that’s something we should all be talking about.
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