“CVS Effect” Article Picked as 2014 Top Leadership Article on Sustainable Brands

I’m extremely proud to share that one of my “CVS Effect” articles was picked as the top leadership article for “Best of 2014 in Sustainability.”

Bestof2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s this one: The “CVS Effect” in Effect: Apple, Disney and Chipotle Step Up

Five major brands have just made news for decisions that buck the bottom-line mantra. Could this be momentum for the “CVS Effect”? Take a look and see if you agree. And note too how brands are joining with allies on these issues, while one brand — Chipotle — is potentially breaking major new ground. Keep reading…

Leave the gun. Take the burrito. Chipotle scores CSR win.

When customers talk, brands listen. And act.

Or at least the smart, winning ones do.

After a bruising shareholder vote-down on executive pay last week, Chipotle sure needed a win.

It got one yesterday, courtesy of some loaded semi-automatic weapons and some pissed-off moms.

The company’s leadership responded quickly to parents and advocates who are working for sane, sensible, eminently reasonable gun control as a public health and safety imperative.

This is another great example of what I’m calling the “CVS Effect”–the growing trend of companies doing the right thing, because it’s the right thing to do.

Every time a major brand, retailer or company speaks up or takes positive steps for their customers’ well-being, health, and the environment, they create a little more safe ground for others to follow their lead.

Here’s how Chipotle’s win came about.

Four days ago, open-carry gun rights advocates in Dallas, Texas decided to display their guns at a Chipotle restaurant.

Then, they posted the photos of their “open-carry rally” on social media.

That’s when the gun-control group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America decided to, well, demand action.

They launched a viral campaign, #BurritosNotBullets, asking Chipotle to ban guns from its restaurants.

Just two days later on Monday, Chipotle responded by asking customers not to bring guns into their restaurants.

Via Huffington Post:

The Pro-Gun Invasion of Chipotle Totally Backfired

Gun-rights activists have shot themselves in the foot, again, with a gun rally that caused another major American retail chain to declare firearms unwelcome.

Chipotle on Monday said it wanted customers to stop bringing guns to its restaurants, after photos of an open-carry rally at one of its Dallas restaurants went viral — thanks in part to the shrewd social-media campaign of a gun-control group. The striking photos showed a dozen or so people brandishing firearms, including semiautomatic rifles, both inside and outside the restaurant.

I think that Chipotle Mexican Grill deserves this CSR win (that’s Corporate Social Responsibility), a ton of good publicity after last week’s executive pay black eye, and hopefully a bump in sales.

That’s because the company’s leadership acted fast and unequivocally to do the right thing.

Because come on, there’s no good reason, of any kind, ever, to bring a loaded semi-automatic weapon into a public dining establishment.

In my mind, the open-carry advocates weren’t there for the burritos. They were there to make a point–their point.

Sure, Chipotle took a risk in making their public statement, but it was a calculated one bolstered by public, customer support. They had 10,000 petition signatures and a Twitter storm to back them up.

As well, coming out on the side of moms and families is consistent with Chipotle’s brand value of putting their customers’ needs and wants for healthy food first.

Plus, it’s worth remembering too that, besides being the right thing to do, good CSR action is good business.

From a cold-hard cash perspective, there are a lot of moms (and dads and caretakers and aunties) who like taking their young ones to Chipotle.

And just want to eat their burrito in peace.

The “CVS Effect” in Effect: Apple, Disney and Chipotle Step Up (New for Sustainable Brands)

Here’s my latest trend piece for Sustainable Brands.

Five major brands have just made news for decisions that buck the bottom-line mantra. Could this be momentum for the “CVS Effect”? Take a look and see if you agree. And note too how brands are joining with allies on these issues, while one brand — Chipotle — is potentially breaking major new ground.

Feb. 28: Apple CEO defends doing the right thing — not just the bottom line

Last week at a shareholder meeting, CEO Tim Cook said that investors who don’t agree with the company’s commitments to renewable energy among other sustainability issues should divest.

Cook knew that he was on safe ground with this issue. A related shareholder proposal against pursuing renewable energy investment got less than 3 percent of the vote. And just two days earlier, Apple had announced that it had signed the Climate Declaration along with more than 120 other California companies.

I don’t know if these two issues occurred to or mattered to Cook before he spoke. But as a high-profile, profitable CEO, his stance creates more “safe ground” for other brand leaders to publicly talk about doing things because they are just and right, not just to make money.

Mar. 2: Disney stops Boy Scouts of America funding because of gay troop leader policy

According to CNN, Disney joins Lockheed Martin, Caterpillar, Major League Soccer, Merck, Intel, Alcoa, AT&T and UPS as companies that have ended partnerships with the Scouts because of its anti-gay policy. So, Disney wasn’t the first to make this move, but this is a noteworthy step because of Disney’s close brand identification with childhood and families.

Mar. 3: Kroger and Safeway say no to GMO salmon

This one is interesting because it’s about something that doesn’t exist yet. The FDA is currently considering whether to allow genetically modified salmon to be sold.

The US’s two largest grocery store brands — Safeway and Kroger — have joined other leading national retailers in saying they won’t carry the product if approved, which include Target, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s. Sure, this isn’t as big as CVS pulling tobacco off the shelf. But it still matters because it shows big companies saying “no” to a product that some customers might want, even if peremptorily.

Mar. 5: Chipotle names climate change as a material risk in its 10-K. As reported by Climate Progress’ Emily Atkins, last month Chipotle listed climate change as a risk for the company in its SEC filing and then downplayed it.

Atkins countered that it is a big deal, because, “The fact that Chipotle openly acknowledges climate change, even as a ‘routine risk,’ is news — as there are likely companies that wouldn’t mention the words ‘climate change’ if their business depended on it. And they do.”

Which leads to another reason why this is potentially a big deal.

It’s no secret that SEC disclosure requirements leave room for companies to be opaque about climate change risks.

Bill Russell, of Transitioning to Green (and a Green Accounting professor), noted that, “Chipotle taking this leading position on climate-change risk disclosure could allow shareholders of any competitor company to ‘demand’ that their company explain how climate change is not a material risk to their company. At any time in the future, should it turn out to be material and they had ‘demanded’ the question be addressed, they could potentially be set up for a shareholder lawsuit.”

While climate-change risk might still be a hard thing for some people to grasp, litigation risk sure isn’t. This is something that corporations are finely attuned to — and take action to prevent.

So with this move, Chipotle may have blown a transparency hole in climate-change risk disclosure for shareholders of other companies to climb on through.

I wrote earlier that I’m betting that forward-looking brands that make bold pro-health and pro-environmental choices will be rewarded by investors and consumers — and others will follow.

It’s just the “Diffusion of Innovations” theory in action. Innovators take the risk and go way out on the limb. Early adopters see it and spread the news. Then others follow it and it becomes normal.

As a whole, these announcements — as signs of changing times — were met at worst neutrally (Disney) and at best positively (Apple) in the press. I’m betting on more to come.