The Importance of Upholding Company Values

June 2020

Getty Images

Your company has its values established and adheres to them … right? And if they do, as an employee, you know your company’s values and abide by them … right? (Even better for all if your personal values align with those of your company.) “Yes” and “yes” should ideally be your response. 

The core standards that companies embrace are what shapes the essence of their identities. These standards, or values, support a vision that create their principles and beliefs, and inspire others to take positive action to affiliate themselves with a brand. Aligning oneself with like-minded brands possessing the standards you, as a customer, may hold or aspire to is a key to happy (and prosperous) relationships.

Have an opinion ready

Some may argue that businesses are designed to make money and are not intended to espouse positions on social hot topics. But here’s why it is crucial for companies to have their values fully articulated by all stakeholders: Consumers are very often basing purchase decisions on your responses to topical issues. This is particularly true as people consider doing business with organizations that support social justice movements such as the one underway this spring and summer. Consumers and B2B partners are evaluating a company’s track record on everything from sexual harassment, living wages, racism, diversity, data privacy and security, gender discrimination and equality, gender pay gap and much more.

What’s at stake

A FleishmanHillard survey of 2,000 engaged consumers in the U.S. and U.K., spanning four generations (Millennials, Gen X, Boomers and the Silent 73+), found that two-thirds of U.S. consumers say they have often or sometimes stopped using certain products or services because a company’s response to a social issue does not support their personal views.

While your marketing efforts may be appealing to multiple generations, a significant portion of U.S. consumers are Millennials (the largest generation with earning and spending income in the U.S. labor force), and the one concern this generation leads the other groups in is the acceptance of diverse ethnic customs and traditions (52%). 

A Millennial’s profile shows these men and women born from roughly 1980 to 1994:

  • Value positive company culture
  • Align with corporate social responsibility
  • Prioritize health and happiness in the workplace
  • Value family and community
  • Are more ethnically diverse than previous generations

Silence is not golden

The FleishmanHillard survey found that 61% of respondents said that even if they disagree with a company’s position on an issue that is important to them, they believe it is crucial for companies to express their views … and they want to hear it from the leader of the company. If your customer base includes Millennials, the study found there is even more expectation to speak out (75%). 

Walk the talk in your corporate response

It’s one thing to espouse company values, but many suffer damaged reputations for not upholding them. The FleishmanHillard study encourages companies to back up their stated values with actions to avoid consumers sensing an “authenticity gap.” The study found that 47% of respondents are less or not at all likely to purchase from companies they believe promise one thing but act in another way. Those who fail to live up to the values their brand asserts are putting themselves at risk.

Ditch double standards

Starbucks recently made negative headlines by not living up to its values. Corporate headquarters allowed employees to wear company-issued buttons supporting LGBTQ but banned employees from wearing attire or accessories affiliated with Black Lives Matter. Following public outcry, Starbucks retracted its original decision and has begun producing similar employee gear supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

From large to small businesses, establishing and adhering to company values, and aligning business decisions to them are part of the core business framework and a company’s marketing scheme that is needed to maintain a company’s reputation and prosperity.

Thank you for reading this.

—Maureen Joyce