I wrote recently about how cleverly Greenpeace had manipulated Nestle for change by so offending Nestle management that they overplayed their hand and tried to shut down any negative comments about the firm.
Greenpeace created the conditions for a good story. But Nestle created the story. And shot itself neatly in each foot.
Which tells us that people are more interested in being able to see what you’re doing, than they are in the impacts of what you’re actually doing. More importantly, you don't decide what people know about your company - they can find out themselves, and usually pretty easily.
Making Radical Transparency your friend.
Try to control the subject as they might, Nestle couldn’t. And the speed with which the internet, twitter, facebook and e-mail spread the word, meant that the situation escalated faster and with greater fury than the company could manage.
Getting it Right.
Let's contrast that with 7th Generation - an all natural eco-groovy brand of green cleaners and hygiene products in North America.
Some years ago Jeffrey Hollander, 7th Generation’s CEO, took a gamble. He told his sales manager: I want to put everything that is bad about our products on the internet.
The Sales Manager was aghast. Surely you must be joking? He said. Next time I go to a customer they’ll be all over me about this negative information. And sure enough, competitors made sure that buyers had all the information about what was wrong about 7th Generation’s products.
And a funny thing happened.
The buyers said to the competitors, “yeah, thanks for this.. Now show us the same for your products.” Some of the competitors scrambled to get the information, provided it, and looked worse. And the rest didn’t, and started to lose sales.
Trust builds sales
Transparency built trust with the buyers – and kept the bar high for competitors.
The point is that for transparency to work FOR you, you have to lead. If you’re number two, or three, or ten, you have to do all the work anyway – but you don’t get the credit. It’s the difference between making CSR costly, or making CSR profitable.