THE BLOG

This Is a Business' Biggest Secret Weapon

06/04/2015 11:52 EDT | Updated 06/04/2016 05:59 EDT
Shutterstock / mathom

In an age where one well-placed tweet or a vine secretly filmed by an unengaged employee or unsatisfied customer can cost a company millions of dollars, business leaders will have to adapt or die. The inner workings of a company are no longer strictly "inner." And within this reality, TRANSPARENCY is the secret weapon for leaders in the new economy.

Unfortunately for laggards of the business world, transparency is one of those things -- like pregnancy -- that you can't be "just a little bit" of. You're either in...or your out.

This week, we saw that this was a hard-learned lesson for major actors on the world stage. From Canada's Mining Industry, to FIFA, to American Apparel, everyone is playing catch-up in the transparency game. In Canada we've seen the Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act (ESTMA) launch a reporting initiative to help better track spending by Canadian oil and mining companies as they operate around the world. In the United States, we saw "Made in the U.S.A." champions at American Apparel continue to distance themselves from their disgraced founder, Dov Charney. And -- in perhaps the biggest "business as a force for good" story of the week -- we saw major sponsors from around the world pave the way for Sepp Blatter's swift-but-disgraceful departure from FIFA.

As someone who has championed open book management, employee ownership, and the Benefit Corporation Movement for the past several years -- this week's flood of accountability-driven stories within mainstream business have been encouraging to watch. In a world where 70 million North Americans identify as "conscious consumers" and 73 per cent of shoppers say they "care about the company -- not just the product or service" -- when making a purchasing decision, behavior like Blatter's and Charney's is (often) no longer tolerable for mainstream observers. Delivering profits is no longer enough. Charney and Blatter haven't gotten worse. The public has simply begun to expect more.

While it is great to see these giant, global operations embrace the idea of accountability for their inner workings, true industry leaders aren't being called to account after the fact -- they are proactively pulling back the curtain to show the world what they are all about. This week's announcement of social media giant Hootsuite's B Corp Certification is a great example of exactly this sort of leadership.

The Vancouver-based organization is the largest "social relationship platform" on the planet. Over the past seven years they have created more than 600 jobs, raised $250MM in investment, and attracted more than 11 million customers. Long story short: Hootsuite is a big deal. And beyond these traditional measures of success, they've now made a public commitment to a more holistic success that will demand a whole new level of transparency. Founder Ryan Holmes frames it this way:

"We've always believed that working at Hootsuite is about building something bigger than ourselves...We strive to meet higher standards. Through addressing positive change for our communities, the environment and our employees, we believe we can create a better place to work and live."

B Corp Certification gives these sentiments a tangible frame of reference. Beyond vague generalizations, they've been pressed to prove their impact...and they now have a "score" to correspond with their commitment. In the same way "LEED" sets a higher standard for architecture and building materials or "organic" lays out a ton of criteria for better farming -- B Corp has developed a set of criteria for impact-driven business to actually PROVE the impact of their organization. The questions are published for the world to see. And every single one of the 1,300 businesses in 41 countries have published their scores so you can know exactly where they sit. Hootsuite scored an 83 (with 80 being the threshold for B Corp Certification). Every score is based on five standardized criteria:

Environmental Impact

Worker Treatment

Customer Focus

Community Involvement

Governance

You can see Hootsuite's score card is right here:

2015-06-04-1433392371-9465819-HootsuiteScore.jpg

It's transparent. For the whole world to see. Not because they are a perfect company. But because they are committed to a better way of doing business. We should honor them for what they're doing well (looks like it is pretty great to be an employee at Hootsuite) and challenge them to improve (let's push Ryan Holmes to go from 75 per cent renewable energy to 100 per cent green).

As one of Canada's highest-potential young companies, it is great to see Hootsuite strive for holistic excellence and commit to the kind of up-front transparency that will define 21st Century leaders. It is exactly these kind of leaders that have created an environment in which the antics of Dov Charney and Sepp Blatter are no longer considered acceptable. This is what the future of business looks like -- and the foundation on which it is built is transparency.

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