Observations on earth
September 2020 By Martin Johnston
COVID-19 has pushed us towards a cashless society. But as we shift away from notes and coins and no longer read ‘I promise to pay the bearer…’, have we lost sense of the true meaning of value? Or are we coining a new currency?
They say if you can see the bandwagon, you’ve already missed it. But plenty of businesses are still lining up to jump, panicked that they need to do anything and everything to highlight their credentials and come back swinging in the era of COVID uncertainty.
Who can blame them? Everyone from grass-roots SMEs to major corporations are cutting back, going bust and struggling to make ends meet. But the crucial thing they’re missing while looking at their balance sheets, is the fact that business currency has changed.
It’s no longer enough to promise to pay the bearer, if your promises to society are falling short. There’s no quick-fix for an authentic ethos – and even worse if you’re trying to string together a convincing archive of something that doesn’t exist.
At earth, we’re thrilled to have that authentic heritage. For over a decade, we’ve been passionate about and demonstrated true value to society, acting as a catalyst for positive impact.
We’ve seen businesses come and go and read between the lines of every strategy under the sun. It’s because of this industry experience that we feel confident and credible to talk about this new hidden currency – how people are now seeing value differently.
But the question remains – why are we only starting to wake up now? Why has it been all facts and figures, without the focus on what companies contribute to the wider community? Bitcoin may be rumoured to be the future of finance, but strip away algorithms and you’re left with nothing tangible. What’s the point in profit if it serves no purpose?
At earth, we’ve always believed in a value-based economy. Your brand is your currency and your license to trade. A transaction in business shouldn’t just be a payment, but a promise to pay it forward and demonstrate your contribution beyond cash.
This has been our north star for the past 10 years, serving clients and society equally and striving for equilibrium in everything we do. It’s how we began our business and how we begin each day, aiming to remain authentic and relevant for sustainable growth and success. And it’s how we plan to remain relevant through the next decade and beyond.
In 1994, CSR specialist John Elkington, created the concept of ‘People, Planet, Profit’ to align business objectives and enhance growth. But here’s the snag – ‘profit’ then become a dirty word. If society feels a business is prioritising profit over people, they’ll turn to a competitor with a humanitarian angle.
The stats speak for themselves – KPMG recently reported that 71% of consumers say that putting profit before people will lose trust in that brand forever. Forever. There’s not a discount code in the world to bounce back from that.
COVID-19 has woken society up and got people asking ‘what’s in it for me?’ and also shook businesses that are sleep-walking into acting. These days, it’s not about how much you’re making, it’s about how much you’re making a difference.
The brands and start-ups that are aligning their vision with strong ethical values are outperforming those chasing profits. And that’s the essence of the new business currency – trading financial value for authentic worth.
With an authentic purpose in action, rather than disjointed philanthropic CSR plans, there’s no need for corporate CPR. Businesses needn’t revive themselves or reinvent, because they’ve already got the framework to reassure people they’re in it for the right reasons.