Today, the stakeholder audience is vastly larger and corporate duties are owed far and wide. In addition, the CEO must address climate change, fossil fuels, plastics and waste, gender diversity, corporate giving programs, dealing with undemocratic regimes, sugar taxes, data rules and more. The list lengthens steadily as wealth regulation gains the ascendancy over wealth creation and conformance starts to outrank performance as a goal. A new audience of special interest is always just around the corner. The public also now expects companies to do more than comply with the law as is; they require compliance with the law as they think it ought to be.
In this world there is no room for artifice, nor for major differences of emphasis between audiences, markets or geography. There must be a single message—and it must be the whole truth.
This is where integrity is the golden key. The CEO and the Board need to understand what their company does and why; what is its social purpose; how it fulfills its obligations; and how it responds, as a citizen of its society and as a global citizen of our increasingly transparent planet.
Often one sees these questions being addressed on the hoof in the face of a crisis—but the speed and transparency of today’s people and markets no longer allow this.
A company, in order to have “integrity,” needs an all-around knowledge of all of its values, and an embrace of them, all of the time. Only then, when the storm hits, will its anchor be seen to hold.
Steering a straight course that can be understood by all people all the time is never easy—but in today’s market it is more necessary than ever.