CEOs and leaders from global companies across all major sectors came together last week at the One Young World (OYW) Summit in The Hague to reassure young people that they are doing their part for society, the environment and to offer inspiration to the next generation of leaders.
As part of Porter Novelli’s delegation, I was there to support the launch of OYW’s new Lead2030 campaign, a new initiative Porter Novelli is supporting to drive progress on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Supported by some of the world’s most prestigious brands, Lead2030 will find, fund and accelerate the most impactful youth-led solutions that are moving the needle on the SDGs.
At the summit, I was able to witness the likes of Coca Cola, Shell, BP, BMW, RB, Gilead and Credit Suisse speak alongside activists, politicians, celebrities and young leaders from around the world.
So how did they do?
Some companies are definitely further ahead than others. We can measure their relative authenticity and ability to communicate their vision by breaking it down into four factors.
- Align your brand’s vision with CSR initiatives. RB CEO Rakesh Kapoor effectively demonstrates his company’s commitment to “creating healthier lives and happier homes” through campaign activations rather than just a statement on their website. The company behind toilet cleaner Dettol builds toilets for communities with no access to safe sanitation. It just makes perfect sense. Its hygiene-focused social impact program exists in close harmony with the objectives of the business and expertise that it has to offer. As MR Kapoor puts it: “More toilets, more Dettol.”
- Remember your actions speak louder than words. Every company talks about the need for diversity in the workplace, but Unilever CEO Paul Polman was praised by inclusivity activist Caroline Casey as the only business leader to follow-through on promises made at the previous OYW Summit in Colombia. This differentiates Unilever as ahead of the curve when it comes to diversity and inclusion, while those who have fallen behind will be struggling to play catch-up.
- Own your mistakes. Audi’s Nills Wollny adeptly addressed the diesel emissions scandal by building a narrative around the need for change in the car industry, positioning Audi as a forerunner. Part of the Volkswagen Group, it is vital for Audi to establish a fresh ethos. Indeed, during times of crisis, a bad company may be forced out of business and a good company will likely survive, but, depending on its response, a great company can emerge with a stronger reputation than ever.
- Tell a damn good story. The story of Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam is fascinating. He survived a coup d’état in 1999 during his time as a government official in Ivory Coast, coming face to face with the angry young participants as they arrested him. These young men were angry about their country’s bleak outlook and their own uncertain futures. His personal story allowed us to view Mr Thiam in a different light, but it also afforded him great authority when he talked about Credit Suisse’s support for education projects to empower young people. Personal stories that are relatable will always appeal to us above numbers and statistics; it’s in our psychology.
For me, only the companies that follow these four steps stand out from the crowd, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.
What do you think is the key to connecting with and inspiring young audiences?