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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Strategic CSR - Values

The article in the url below explores the muddy waters of company values. In a somewhat sarcastic manner, it questions the value of values, both for the company that adopts them and the employees who are supposed to embody them:
"Maitland, the financial PR company, has just finished an audit of the values of the FTSE 100, and found that three words — integrity, respect and innovation — crop up over and over again. What a splendid trio they sound. Alas, all are duds. Integrity is particularly feeble. It makes no sense to assert integrity as a value, as no one would ever dream of asserting the reverse. Respect sounds good, but is meaningless unless it is made clear (as it never is) who is meant to be respected. Some people deserve respect; others do not. And innovation makes its way on to the list more as a wish from frumpy companies to be seen as a little groovier."
Apart from the fact that few employees remember what their company's values are, the author suggests that the main problem with espoused values is that they make companies sound desperate. Moreover, they expose companies to charges of hypocrisy as soon as someone in the firm breaks the values:
"First, self-describing is always dodgy. If someone goes out of their way to tell me they are honest or creative, I immediately conclude the reverse. Second, far from being a point of difference, values make every company look the same, as there is only a finite list of desirable corporate traits. And third, public professions are a hostage to fortune. Volkswagen must be ruing the day it made 'sustainability' a core value."
Further critiquing the report, the author concludes that, rather than seeking the ideal set of values, companies should abandon the search altogether:
"The report then questions how many values a company should have and concludes — entirely arbitrarily — that the perfect number is four. For me the ideal number is zero. Values may be important, but they are also slippery. The minute anyone tries to write them down they become trite and unhelpful."
As evidence in support of her argument, the author presents some compelling data:
"Seventeen of Britain's 100 biggest companies are sensible enough to have no values at all — or at least none they care to disclose on their websites. And how do they get along without them? … I asked [the FT's] statistics department to crunch some numbers for me and compare an index made up of the 17 values refuseniks with one made of 83 who are toeing the line. … Over the past 10 years the 17 valueless companies have outperformed the others in the FTSE 100 Index by about 70 per cent."
For the graph revealing this disparity in performance, see:
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Hands up if you can list what your company's values are
By Lucy Kellaway
October 5, 2015
Financial Times
Late Edition – Final