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The Age of the Movement: Activism, Engagement and Mediation

Questions by the Communication Director Magazine on January 2012.

Corporations are often the target of activism; but what can corporations learn from popular movements like the Arab Revolution, Occupy Wall street or Stuttgart 21?

Corporations should wake up to the fact that in today’s world everyone has access to a large audience, where individuals are more connected together than ever before. This creates many opportunities for corporations to further engage with the masses and share their commercial promises.

However, everyone can create events that will spread virally that can build movements capable of making and breaking regimes; those regimes can be political, economic or pecuniary. Acts of wrongdoing will not go unnoticed. They will be uncovered, put out in the open and be addressed by many people together. Corporations ought to appreciate what sustainability really is and that it is now all about stakeholder value over shareholder value.
The popularity of direct-action activism groups surely stems from a loss of trust in the public perception of business. How do you propose that businesses work together to restore trust in their particular industry, and in business on the whole?

Very simple, make perception your reality. Some businesses cannot restore trust unless the change their business. For our children and our children’s children the world needs champions and those champions can be corporations. Following our detox campaign last year, textile manufacturers are sitting together to address certification in their industry to ensure their so far incremental changes turn into something more transformational. More corporations should follow this example.

It is disturbing to see, however, how some businesses are too comfortable continuing their business as usual and in particular those who are trying to stop any significant progress, as we showed in a recent report at the COP17 conference in Durban (‘Listen to the people, not the polluters’). 

Last, but certainly not least, business should ensure authentic communications so their image is in line with their identity. If they want their public perception to be right, then their business should be.

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