Nothing is secret any more, and you have to do good in order to do well. It’s the Age of Damage.
Speaking to B&T during his trip to Australia, Havas global CEO David Jones said there is nothing more important for businesses today than to be socially responsible. To beat the competition, the new trick is to “out-behave” it, he said.
“You cannot have discreet conversations any more – you can’t say one thing to shareholders, one thing to employees, and so on,” Jones told B&T. “Things that would have historically remained private are in the public. Social media has made this one of the most exciting, but one of the most challenging, times to be a leader.
“Out-behave your competition – I genuinely think you can do that. Eighty per cent of people want business to stand for more than just profit.”
Jones said Australia has been shielded from some of the impact and has not witnessed some of the devastating damage social media can do to businesses that Europe and the US has seen.
But he warned those devastating cases will inevitably happen in the coming months.
“In the area of social responsibility and business, I don’t think we have seen the same impact in Australia that there has been in the US and UK,” he said. “There was Alan Jones and his comments that got him into trouble, and there was the Qantas Luxury hashtag – there are examples, but if you come back to it in 12 to 18 months’ time, there will be 10 new examples.
“I can say without a doubt, it’s coming big time. This is a really big issue for the world’s biggest businesses.”
Jones argued that the “new price of doing well is doing good”.
“Social media has taken social responsibility out of a silo and put it into P&L,” he explained. “There is now compelling evidence that you can out-behave your competition.
“The financial sector in the US is struggling to get the best talent in – the top students want to work for socially responsible businesses now.
“And if you don’t buy the positive evidence – look at the cost of doing the wrong thing.”
The issue is a topic that Jones is passionate about, evident through his book, Who Cares Wins, which is about why good business is better business,
He told B&T: “I have never been more convinced about anything than I am about this: the most successful businesses in the future will be the most socially responsible.”
So what does Havas do to live up to this?
“We’re not perfect,” said Jones.” But we fundamentally believe in this. We think there’s a big and exciting opportunity, and also an obligation, to use the power of creativity to effect positive change.”
He pointed to Havas’ annual Meaningful Brands study, stating: “The evidence from that is that it’s the most socially responsible businesses that people care about the most.”
Havas is also behind One Young World, a charity founded by Jones and Havas UK chairman Kate Robertson to provide opportunities for young leaders around the world to share socially responsible ideas.
And Havas worked with UK Prime Minister David Cameron on his successful election campaign. Jones said: “He is a brilliant socially responsible leader. We wanted to work with him because of his speech on social responsibility in 2005.”
“Social responsibility is an area we believe we need to be experts in talking about it, and do as much as we can in the ‘doing’ as well. But I don’t want anyone to get the impression we are fantastic. But if everyone in the world can get 15% better, the whole world gets 15% better.”
Jones also had some advice for Australia’s marketers.
He said: “The critical thing is that you should not be marketing social responsibility. What’s crucially important is that social responsibility is at the heart of the business strategy – not a marketing campaign.
“This is a space where you should under-promise and over-deliver. If you are doing a lot, say you are doing a little. If you are doing a little, say nothing. Humility is vital. This is the new price of doing well – seize that opportunity. “