Corporate reputations require actions – or – Apple, the US Chamber of Commerce and You

What is a company to do when their corporate reputation is founded, in part, on being a greener Apple and the company is a member in an anti-environmental organization?   If a green apple is your metaphor, how does that influence your actions? You need to act on your stated goals or else gain a reputation of being hypocrites.

That is why Apple has resigned from the US Chamber of Commerce, joining a group of well known companies such as Nike to distance themselves from the organization (Nike resigned from the board but is still a member…for now).  The Chamber of Commerce has been a vocal critic of all legislation to curb greenhouse gases.  That sets it on a direct conflict with members such as GE who are building their reputation on finding innovative and profitable ways to address the environmental problems we, as a society, are facing.  Ecomagination advertising and membership in the Chamber are at cross-purposes.  The company’s narrative is more than just an ad campaign and website and PR.

Nike knows this well from their struggles in the past with other social issues.

Do all consumers really care about such issues?  No.  But enough of them do that it matters.  And the other audiences matter, too, including NGOs, employees and prospective employees.

The implications for branding are clear — practice what you preach.  When redefining your corporate identity, you need to look across all activities of the company beyond marketing practices.  It extends into unexpected areas such as membership in organizations like the Chamber of Commerce.

The conflict between the Chamber and the corporate reputations cannot continue long now that the public has become aware of it.  Companies that are building their image around sustainability and environmental awareness will find themselves under pressure to withdraw.  And they, in turn, will put pressure on the Chamber to change it’s position on environmental legislation.

As the old saying goes, people will judge you by the company you keep.

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