In Shouting Over ESG and Diversity, Marketers’ Risk Grows

Published on February 15, 2024

Purpose-driven marketers this year find themselves at a crossroads. As business and nonprofit leaders, we are stewards of our communities. Yet the idea of corporate responsibility itself is increasingly litigated and politically charged. More organizations are coming under fire for their diversity and ESG choices, and critics wield misinformed accusations of “wokeness” and “virtue signaling.” The best way to stay out of trouble once was obvious–to do the right thing. Now, many peers feel bullied into silence.

The backlash is real. It manifests in social media storms, boycott threats and court fights over affirmative action. But loud voices don’t always represent the majority. They don’t define us. Goal-oriented marketers are driven by a deeper understanding. We know that diversity fosters creativity, ESG fuels innovation and authentic values build trust. These aren’t trends, they’re the basics of brands and teams that thrive.

The angry minority is suggesting we water down our message, shy away from bold stances and forever place profits over people and planet. But when we succumb to fear, we lose our power. We abandon the communities we serve and betray the values that fuel our passion. Not everyone shares my opinion, but as a marketer, I have learned that positioning is about differentiation, focus and point of view. Big brands have always stood for something. We diminish our brands when they stand for much less.

The year ahead promises to be important for marketers and communicators. This newsletter explores challenges and opportunities to stand by our values and move forward. I remain hopeful that we will continue to do the right thing and be financially rewarded for it.

Social Networks Rally Against Antisocial Behavior

This TikTok is more than a hot take on dating etiquette. With 1.5 million plays, @introvertedofficial has left a tip: Intolerance is no longer tolerated.

Support for Mark Cuban’s DEI advocacy is “heart warming” to the billionaire investor. Whether or not he has blocked Elon Musk, Cuban affirms that inclusion is not a problem but a solution.

As Cuban defended #UnitedAirlines recruiting on X, #Axios hinted at the obvious: The DEI backlash is offensive, and employers must lead with respect.

Take care,

Best of the Blogs Take Pulse of Corporate Purpose

The Purpose Brand blog is one of our most effective ways to share insight on current issues in marketing and public relations. Reader favorites from 2023 show the emerging best practices in corporate social responsibility, diversity and purpose positioning.

Best Purpose Statement Examples From the Fortune 500: In our list of corporate purpose statements, Purpose Brand shows how top companies align their brands with their customers’ values and goals.

Corporate Diversity Data: What Fortune 500 DEI Reports Reveal: An update of Purpose Brand’s corporate DEI survey reveals a sharp focus on women in corporate governance and top management.

Purpose Campaign Trends: Anchoring Brands in a Fast-Moving World: Top brands find 50 ways to put purpose into practice.

What is ESG Marketing? Showing impact provides a sustainable approach to brand awareness.

2023 Sustainability Reports Track Fortune 500 Corporate Climate Action: In the latest crop of environmental reports, marketers measure what gets managed.

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