More than ever before, organizations are facing pressure to publicly address cultural, societal and political events.
According to the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer, people have increasing expectations of companies to take a stand on societal issues. However, companies are failing to rise to the challenge and meet these expectations. For example, 52% of respondents claimed that businesses aren’t doing enough to address climate change whereas only 9% claimed that businesses are overstepping by engaging on the topic.
We also know that people are increasingly holding businesses accountable — choosing to buy, work and invest based on their beliefs and values.
While simply providing a public response to each emerging societal issue might seem to offer the path of least resistance, to do so without careful consideration can put an organization’s credibility at risk and diminish the very cause they seek to address.
The question for organizations is, when should you respond publicly, when you should focus inward, and when you should refrain from speaking at all?
The complexity around these issues and the difficulties companies face in charting their course is why we’ve developed Edelman Societal Issues Navigator — to provide a consistent, strategic approach to help companies chart their course through societal expectations on complex issues.
Societal Issues Navigator combines our expertise in helping companies evolve their business in the face of societal expectations, with a digitally powered decision-making framework.
Determining whether to take a stance on an emerging issue — either proactively or reactively — should be based on several key considerations that, when taken together, guide an organization on whether it has the potential or responsibility to engage on the topic. This framework revolves around several key sets of considerations, based on our team’s years of experience in counselling clients through these issues and grounded in key dimensions related to building and maintaining trust. Each has layers of complexity requiring thoughtful discussion across groups of stakeholders, and which may affect the approach a company may ultimately take, both internally and externally.
Once addressed, the framework provides an initial strategic recommendation, as well as a list of key questions and potential tactics to move forward immediately.
Importantly, understanding that each organization’s challenges are unique, the Navigator is fully customizable with bespoke questions and weighting of those questions tailored specifically to an organization’s needs. The framework itself can be used in response to a specific issue, or in creating a foundational assessment of likely future issues to create a playbook for future events.