Reputation facing changes in values, objectives, and contexts
From the moment we are born, we look for certainties. We are driven by our human nature to feel that we somehow have the situation “under control” to a greater or lesser extent. Uncertainty makes us feel weak, fragile, and vulnerable.
These are bad times for the cautious, farsighted and prudent. It is no secret, and this is true and evident, that society is advancing at a faster and faster pace. Technological development, the way we relate and communicate, moral values, ideals, policies, and governmental organizations. I would venture to say that more changes have taken place in the last fifty years than in the last three hundred. There is still more to come: If we were already going at breakneck speed up to now, the last two years have been devastating.
These are bad times for the cautious, farsighted and prudent. It is no secret, and this is true and evident, that society is advancing at a faster and faster pace. If we were already going at breakneck speed up to now, the last two years have been devastating.
The outbreak of COVID-19 was a turning point. An unprecedented crisis that turned the world upside down in every way and made us aware of the vulnerability of human beings. These have been difficult years for everyone, including companies, in which we have had to make decisions based on uncertainty, doubts, and concerns.
Just when we thought we could see the light at the end of a very dark tunnel, at the gates of the end of the pandemic, a new event shakes everything up again: the war in Ukraine. Our bodies, our companies, were asking us for serenity, to regain tranquility and calm, but the Russian invasion has reignited the state of alarm. The war conflict is disrupting trade and financial globalization and, once again, we have to manage a structural crisis.
We find ourselves in a volatile, constantly changing environment in which the word “uncertainty” is the order of the day. A term that is intrinsically associated with negative connotations. An opinion that is not shared by the American writer Maggie Jackson, whom I read in an interview with the BBC: “Uncertainty is wonderful because it makes us think more clearly”. I have given this statement a lot of thought and, after my experience, I have come to the conclusion that it is absolutely true.
For example, in this uncertain context, we at Covestro face major global challenges, such as the risk of supply chain disruption or rising energy prices, which force us to imagine new ways of doing things. In this sense, we are devoting all our efforts to promoting one of the elements that we consider indispensable to continue advancing along this path: the commitment to circular economy models and digitalization. In other words, in this current scenario of great challenges and uncertainty, we are creating historic opportunities for change with which we contribute to building a more sustainable future for everyone.
Companies have to be fast, and moldable to new circumstances. To remain anchored in static processes and methodologies is to go against the flow of what is happening in the world. We need to listen, understand and take action. No matter how solid a company’s reputation may be, organizations that are not able to adapt quickly run a high risk of damaging their reputation and prestige.
In order to cope with such a stressful situation, I have learned over the past few years that the word “resilience” makes more sense than ever. We must be patient, strong, and determined.
Additionally, a good analysis of the situation is key. Understanding and studying the context and having information, both from internal and external experts, is essential to avoid making premature decisions that could undoubtedly affect the company’s reputation and business.
However, decisions have to be made quickly and this is where the last factor comes in: speed of reaction. In this case, whoever does not move, does not appear in the picture. We cannot adopt an attitude of impassivity when facing a critical situation. Our stakeholders expect answers and, for this, after a prior assessment of the context, we must act as soon as possible and be part of the solution, adapting once again to the new reality.
Likewise, in order to face this uncertain future, it is essential to build a solid foundation that will allow us to be prepared for the moment of action. In this regard, again my experience has corroborated the importance of building a good network of allies. It is extremely important to build sustained relationships with different organizations so that we can support each other during difficult times. In complicated circumstances, there should be no individualism, but rather a collaborative attitude in which the common good prevails.
One last imperative: companies must embrace humanization. Organizations are made up of people and this is precisely the most valuable asset and the main protective shield of our reputation. A recent report of IDEAS LLYC discussed “corporate empathy”, a term that I consider more than accurate and that perfectly conveys the essence, the heart, and the engine that should drive companies. We have to be empathetic with our public, and with our stakeholders and focus focusing on people.
In short, are these times difficult, uncertain, and volatile? Yes. Are companies more exposed and in a fragile situation compared to previous years? Yes. Are we facing an uncontrollable situation and running run the risk of losing part of what we have built over the years? No. I would like to refer again to the interview with Maggie Jackson that I mentioned at the beginning: “Uncertainty is the springboard to thinking on a larger scale”. Given the historical moment we are living through, we have the opportunity to be imaginative and find different ways of doing things to continue to drive the progress of current and future societies.