The Importance of Brand Accountability in This Day and Age
A dictionary definition of accountability is “ the act of accepting responsibility for one’s actions, and the willingness to justify them”. The concept goes hand-in-hand with responsibility. It’s impossible to accept responsibility without being held accountable.
When it comes to brands, accepting responsibility and demonstrating accountability has been something of a contentious issue. In 2021, brands who don’t take responsibility for their impact on the world at large are losing their popularity, especially among younger generations.
Brand accountability can be complex. It involves a multi-layered approach to marketing, online presence, and business, as well as the willingness to shift focus away from solely profits and towards the “greater good”. For brands, demonstrating accountability means looking at societal problems and actively using their status and power to address them.
The Social Justice Factor
There are currently a number of social justice issues that have become increasingly important to consumers. Climate change, inequality, systemic racism, sexism, the exploitation of workers, and the more recent ongoing health crisis are no longer getting swept under the rug. When a brand fails to take responsibility for the result of its actions, consumers notice—Millennials and Gen Zs in particular.
Those social justice issues—climate change, inequality, exploitation, etc.—are relevant in every industry. While consumers’ demands for brands to take responsibility have increased however, there are still many problematic corporations that continue to flourish despite criticism.
Social Justice And Accountability – The Example Of Nestlé
Take, for example, the multinational corporation: Nestlé. Its products include universally popular chocolates (Kit Kat, Smarties etc.), coffee (e.g.: Nespresso) and a variety of baby food products. At present, the company still rakes in billions of dollars in profits every year, despite having been subject to boycotts for decades.
While Nestle does remain popular, an increasing number of consumers see the brand as irresponsible. It’s continually failing to demonstrate accountability and transparency when it comes to their damaging effect on people and the environment.
Nestle has stopped short of admitting they profit from child labor and slavery, but acknowledges that it is a possibility. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the brand’s lack of accountability.
Why Brand Accountability Matters – What Are The Benefits?
There are many companies, like Nestle, who continue to thrive despite their failure to demonstrate accountability. The fact that consumers are increasingly aware of these issues suggests that brand accountability is going to become a far more important factor in terms of attracting and keeping customers.
There are a number of benefits, both long-term and short-term, that brands can expect when they actively take responsibility and demonstrate a sincere commitment to benefit society. These profits might not immediately be financial. But instead can strengthen brands and forge a better and more open relationship with their customers.
1. Accountability and authenticity – mistakes and growth
When brands accept responsibility for the consequences of their actions, they help to foster a workplace culture in which people can admit to mistakes and learn from them.
While not all mistakes are rectifiable, a brand that treats problems as opportunities can win over consumers who value authenticity.
2. Workplace culture of positivity – trust and relationships
Companies that are good at taking responsibility for their actions promote a culture of trust, support and honesty. True brand accountability is achieved when it’s applied to everyone—from top management to inexperienced interns.
Many managers unfortunately do not have a forgiving attitude when it comes to employees’ mistakes. This can create challenges and result in a workforce that’s reluctant to admit to errors, and therefore, less likely to learn from them.
Focusing on and promoting the values of honesty and integrity tells consumers that the brand in question is taking an active interest in social issues, rather than paying lip service.
3. Improved employee performance – independence and creativity
People who are afraid to make mistakes become inhibited, which inevitably has a knock-on effect when it comes to their work performance. Lack of transparency in business forces workers to look good, rather than produce good work.
When a company shows accountability, it allows employees the scope to take initiative without the fear of being “punished” if their idea doesn’t work out. Working for someone who takes responsibility allows staff members to be creative—a great asset that leads to improved performance no matter what the industry.
Letting go of the need to look good allows brands to focus on the quality of their work instead of compromising their values in the name of financial gain. Employees who are constantly scared of slipping up tend to dislike their jobs. Those who are engaged, on the other hand, often feel positive about their contribution to the company.
4. Increasing consumers’ trust – dropping the façade
Companies who demonstrate accountability inspire trust in their employees as well as their consumers. Trust from management allows staff members to work independently, enabling them to feel valued, and thus more likely to produce higher quality work. Instead of focusing only on the bigger picture—profits, for example—brands that take responsibility grow their businesses from the ground up. Transparency at every level is what consumers want (or demand); not only a façade of integrity. Integrity in any business is incredibly important, and it needs to be authentic.
It has become increasingly evident that society is controlled, to a large extent, by profit-making corporations. Most of these businesses are very adept at talking the talk when it comes to accountability.
Yet many of them still fail to walk the walk. The lack of transparency and continuous attempts by corporations to appear responsible is contributing a lot to consumers’ lack of trust.
5. Long-term and general benefits
Brands that jump on the “woke” bandwagon by piggybacking on social justice movements are beginning to get called out by consumers.
Building a company these days doesn’t only mean financial success, but also the willingness to admit mistakes and learn from them.
The world is changing fast, and everyone is experiencing the pressure to keep up with trends. For brands, both large and small, it is essential to demonstrate accountability. For the good of society, and ultimately, the good of their companies.