Where have Starbucks, Amazon and Google gone wrong?
The fact that tax avoidance campaigners are protesting outside branches of Starbucks today isn’t really a surprise.
After all, the Internet is making the world an increasingly transparent place. Social media is allowing people access to facts that not so long ago might have remained mostly hidden; it’s also allowing people the ability to mobilise more quickly than at any time in history.
I argued in my book E is for Exceptional that both organisations and individuals would increasingly need to think about the skill of Citizenship – making decisions and behaving in ways that protect and enhance their reputations.
Yes, it may be entirely legal what these organisations are doing. But customers know that legal doesn’t mean the same thing as ethical.
It’s not only going to be big organisations that get pulled up for their failure to be good citizens. As the big organisations clean up their acts, it’ll be the medium-sized and then smaller organisations that come under scrutiny.
Even single individuals can easily be brought down too.
To ensure that neither you nor your organisation runs afoul of poor Citizenship practices:
- Think about how you’d explain your actions to your friends if you were chatting to them down the pub. Don’t think about what your professional colleagues might think permissible. Think about how your closest friends – the ones who’d pull you up for doing stupid things – would characterise your behaviour.
- Always consider the broader impact of everything you do. How might your decisions and behaviour affect not only a particular customer or colleague but also the community, society and the planet Earth?
- Think too about the longer-term consequences of your behaviour. Imagine that your great grandchildren from 100 years in the future has been brought back in time to question you about the choices you make. Would you be proud to tell them exactly what you’ve chosen to do?