Companies and institutions that are late in understanding the nature of revolution, or refrain from making internal changes in the structure of their institution and culture, are doomed to fail sooner or later.
The company has a responsibility to participate in the society just like it has the right to benefit from its citizenship in the society.
Like anything else, all institutions and companies in the community must conform to this new spirit so they can survive and grow. But companies and institutions that are late in understanding the nature of revolution, or refrain from making internal changes in the structure of their institution and culture, are doomed to fail sooner or later, like the dinosaurs that became extinct because they could not adapt to environmental changes.
Perhaps one of the most important principles of the revolution, chanted by the youth, was the idea of social justice and human dignity. Although this idea has many dimensions, both within and outside a company, I would like to focus on the social responsibility that corporations must demonstrate to help achieve one of the most important principles of the revolution.
It is therefore incumbent on each company to decide whether it wants to be a rude neighbor or if it would like to build ties of friendship and solidarity, with its neighbors?
Social responsibility is important not only for companies but also for brands - which need to build friendly ties with the community from the perspective of good corporate citizenship, as well as for utilitarian, pragmatic and marketing reasons. From the perspective of citizenship, the company and the brands it represents are part of the community and can only flourish if the society flourishes, and therefore the company has a responsibility to participate in the society just like it has the right to benefit from its citizenship in the society. Thus, citizenship is about rights and obligations, and benefits and responsibilities.
What happens when a company is satisfied with simply respecting the law, paying its taxes and only meeting other mandatory obligations? It becomes like a man who lives in a neighborhood and respects the law, but does not share in his neighbors’ and community’s feelings of solidarity, courtesy, tenderness, communication, or affection. This person lives alone, and one day when trouble befalls him and he needs the help of his neighbors, no one will know him or come to his aid. Nobody sees him in good times or bad. He never shows solidarity with others during hard times. He never gains any positive feelings or trust from his neighbors; on the contrary, he is viewed with apprehension and suspicion. His neighbors might think: “who is this person who lives here and does not do anything for anyone?”
In contrast to this introverted man, when companies engage in voluntary social work, and their brands appear in the field of social development, these companies start to gain a good reputation which goes beyond mere product quality or competitive prices. These companies and brands gain “personality”. This “personality” sticks to their products and becomes part of the emotional memory that members of the community, including consumers, suppliers, investors, potential staff and government officials ascribe to the products. The real values of this “personality” appear on the ground, in situations that are important to society, and therefore the bonds of “friendship” between the company and society as a whole become stronger.
It is therefore incumbent on each company to decide whether it wants to be a rude neighbor or if it would like to build ties of friendship and solidarity, with its neighbors? Does the company want to become an effective and well-liked “citizen” in its neighborhood, or does it want to be heard by people only when it asks them to buy its products? Similarly, a company’s reputation can easily be tarnished by the media in spite of investing millions or billions of pounds in advertisements that quickly lose their value in the absence of “emotional goodwill” for these companies from the community and public opinion. This goodwill grows steadily with the growth of the social responsibility of these companies, and their participation in integrated development projects through which the “corporate personality” they are trying to establish is embodied. Today, after a revolution that changed the face of Egypt, the values governing companies and brands must change to correspond with the values that were espoused by the revolution; those values that represent the culture of the “Republic of Tahrir Square.”
It is no longer a luxury, but rather a practical necessity for any company, seeking to succeed and thrive, to look for the principles of the revolution in its internal culture.
In this context, we must point out that companies are only groups of human beings, and at the same time, they operate in communities and deal with other groups of people. In the past, marketers would make their plans on the basis that purchasing decisions were often rational and logical, in the sense that they relied on evaluating objective and quantitative factors, such as performance, features, size and price. But advanced marketing research has proven that sensations and feelings account for more than 50% of the purchase decision for most types of goods, and that the right lobe of the brain - the emotional half – controls far more of the decision making then we had traditionally assumed. In other words, it is likely that consumers will prefer a product or a brand that creates emotional attachment for that product, brand, or company.
Today, we suggest that it is no longer a luxury, but rather a practical necessity for any company, seeking to succeed and thrive to look for the principles of the revolution in its internal culture and in the hearts and the minds of its decision-makers and workers - especially the principles of social justice. It is necessary for companies to prioritize these principles and to push for the adoption of clear and effective policies in the field of social responsibility.
When we find that the national dialogue deals with a new social contract between the citizen, the government, the private sector and the civil society, we must mention the Social Contract Center, a joint venture between the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and The Egyptian Cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC). The Center has developed a set of mechanisms that enable private sector companies to participate in development initiatives that maximize the “community” return they receive for their social responsibility efforts. For example, the social responsibility map created by the Social Contract Center provides information on projects and services which are needed by Egyptian villages including basic infrastructure investments and investment opportunities that will help to develop small and medium size enterprises and create jobs.
These initiatives ensure that development efforts continue and that they all come together to build an image of the new Egypt which we wish and dream of - an image whose features gradually take shape based on the efforts and contributions of all parties to this new social contract that we seek.
Today, I ask a new question of companies: Has the revolution reached the heart of your company? Have the core values which form the personality of your company changed to reflect the new spirit of Egypt after the revolution? How is this new spirit going to be reflected in the social responsibility policy of your company during the coming period?
Nagwa Emad is a highly experienced PR professional with over 25 years in the Middle East. She is the Founder of the PR firm Media Waves, based in Egypt, and is the National Chair of Egypt for the International Public Relations Association (IPRA)