What Customers Want: The Naked Truth

Is your company as transparent as your customers want you to be?

Technology is paving the way for consumers to be increasingly connected to businesses. At the same time, ethical business operations are becoming more important to the public, with one survey of 25,000 people across 26 countries showing that consumers base their perceptions of a company on its corporate citizenship practices, even more than brand reputation or financial practices. Transparency at all levels of a company builds trust with consumers and reinforces the positive contributions of its work, and more than half of CEOs surveyed at the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy conference said that consumers and shareholders demand greater levels of transparency about a company’s community engagement than they did five years ago.

One form of transparency comes from direct interactions between companies and consumers through email, social media, and their own website. This gives consumers a window into the operations, sometimes literally. Intel’s “Explore Intel” campaign incorporates a live webcam and information on air quality, solar energy generation, recycling percentages, and water conservation. Visitors to their website can keep tabs on Intel’s environmental practices, giving the ordinary consumer a sense of control and connection to a large corporation.

Starbucks similarly uses its website to inform customers of their social, economic, and environmental practices in their supply chain. Reassuring consumers that they’re buying into a responsible company with ethical products and services is simply good business, as it establishes a strong relationship between otherwise impersonal companies and their customers.

As the industry realizes how much the public cares about sustainability and corporate responsibility, they are responding in turn. Hundreds of rankings systems, including the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and Sustainable Asset Management’s indexes, have emerged to track the environmental and social impacts of companies. This provides consumers with another tool for identifying companies whose values are in line with their own.

What steps have you taken to make sure your customers know the integrity of your business practices?