Some of the world’s most high-profile cause efforts are under the media microscope this week. Ad Age discusses the scrutiny Unilever and P&G face as a result of their highly visible support of social and environmental issues. The article notes, “No good deed goes entirely unpunished; high-profile stances on social causes can have unintended consequences; and the water is getting pretty murky as ‘ethical marketing’ encourages consumers and activists to delve into corporate policies in even-greater detail.”
This is not news to Dove, who, in a startling account in another Ad Age story, is accused of professionally airbrushing the so-called “real” women in its Campaign for Real Beauty. Unilever and the photographer deny this claim, but it is a blatant reminder that when you take a stand in a highly visible way, there is no room for error.
The companies who are truly “walking the talk” will examine all of their business practices to ensure they are aligned with their values, and they understand that only through transparency and authentic engagement with even the most virulent stakeholders can they truly advance the social or environmental agenda. Those whose practices are found to be inconsistent with their messages will answer to consumers in the court of public opinion.