“The business of business should not be about money”. Corporations and organisations have over the years explored practical, work based approach to Emotional Intelligence that helps individuals and teams understand why people behave the way they do and how to maximise their engagement with, and performance at, work. Recent findings have shown that corporations with effective Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs make more money and are better perceived by their consumers than those that are not relying on programs such as social issue marketing, philanthropic efforts, employee volunteer initiatives, and diversity and inclusion work, to build their brands and satisfy customers.
In the light of recent happenings around the world, most especially the Black Life Matters #BLM protest, spotlighting critical issues such as Systemic racism, Police brutality and Rape to mention a few, consumers and business stakeholders are holding corporations accountable, demanding justice and empathy from the brands they patronise, this has made public relations more pertinent to businesses.
The BLM protest which started as a response to the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis has driven one of the largest protest movement in recent memories to an estimated number of 15 to 26 million protesters in the United states, and countless number of online comrades across the globe. Some other protests that cuts across continents includes the killing of Oluwatoyin Salau, a 19-year-old Nigerian BLM activist, and the recent shooting of Jacob Blake, a father of 3, who was shot right in front of his sons by another white police officer in Kenosha, United states.
In Nigeria, petitions were signed against a popular Afropop musician who was on the news for rape related allegations, for brands to dissociate themselves from him till he was cleared of the case. These specific events suggest that consumers want to lend their voices through the platforms of the brands they patronise. A recent article published by BBC has warned corporations to beware of brand activism, taking a stand on social, environmental, or political issues. It is a trend driven by consumer behaviour, as more and more people expect companies to make a positive contribution to the society. Consumers respond to brands by rewarding firms involved in activism, and are likely to boycott, or in extreme cases be violent towards businesses that they find otherwise during protests. A case study of this occurrence was the Xenophobia protest in Nigeria, some South African businesses suffered losses in forms of vandalisations and looting as a response to ill treatment of Nigerians in South Africa. These events sums up to justify one thing, “the needs of consumers and employees have evolved over the years, and now, they are looking for more than Corporate Social Responsibility — they want Corporate Social Justice”.
Corporate Social Justice is a reframing of CSR that centers the focus of any initiative or program on the measurable, lived experiences of groups harmed and disadvantaged by society. CSR is a self-regulated framework that has no legal or social obligation for corporations to create positive impact for the groups they purport to help. It is a framework regulated by the trust between a company and its employees, customers, shareholders, and the broader community it touches, with the goal of explicitly doing good by all of them. Where CSR is often realised through a secondary or even vanity program tacked onto a company’s main business, Corporate Social Justice requires deep integration with every aspect of the way a company functions.
There is an urgent need for Nigerian businesses to experience a fundamental shift that helps them strike an healthy balance between the emotional demand of their consumers and the values that the company stands for. Consumers and business stakeholders wants to transact with companies that see social good as a necessity, not just a marketing strategy, companies with a goal or vision for a more just society where there are measurable steps to show the progress of the company on the course that they have committed to pursue.
It has become pertinent for organisations that are thinking Corporate Social Justice to continuously improve upon a flexible transparent relationship between its community of stakeholders, monitor and evaluate the progress they make with them. Corporate Social Justice is a new paradigm that imagines a healthier and mutually beneficial relationship between companies and the communities they interact with. It is driven by the growing desire of socially aware consumers and employees for companies, especially socially conscious and forward-thinking companies, to do better. Corporations and organisations have a responsibility and opportunity to rise to the occasion and leverage their influence to build a better world for all — including themselves.