Insights

COMMERCE FOR GOOD

Martin Casey

The nature of a consultant’s work is disconnected. Remote work, work from home, nearshoring, offshoring, the emerging new normal that traverses many industries puts distance between colleagues and clients. Specifically, a consultant’s work is often detached from the product of a collective effort by time as well as space. Our contributions—the ideas that push forward projects, the sprints to elusive finish lines, the hard work of keeping the trains running—are ephemeral. We offer up our skills, our sweat, and if we’ve done our jobs correctly, our clients carry on in the marathon of industry without us. Planned obsolescence is a key feature of our business model.

As a result, consultants must look at an entire career portfolio to weave the connecting fibers and divine coherence in the work. Have we shifted the prism through which an industry is seen? Did we discover a new market? Were we able to breathe new life into a beloved brand? By which metric and at what scale are we able to measure the worth of our collective effort? I am proud of the work we’ve done together at Gorilla, lifting up young organizations and reinvigorating old. We have earnestly transformed how hundreds of businesses operate, how thousands of employees work, and how millions of people engage in commerce. Above all, we have leveraged the necessary pursuit of growth and margin, building enduring client value with the power to promote commerce for good.

Somewhat unsurprisingly in these times, even altruism is controversial. A titan of the electrical vehicle industry labeled ESG (Environment/Social/Governance) investing a ‘scam’ that’s “been weaponized by social justice warriors.” This comment followed a report in which a competitor received good marks. Born within financial services, ESG attempts to bring a lens to an investor’s scorecard which is used to reconcile financial goals with societal good. How does a company’s supply chain impact the water supply, local wildlife, and air quality? How does it elevate marginalized communities and promote inclusion? Is there sufficient transparency at the board level such that the company might reasonably be held accountable? Tools have emerged to visualize, track, and predict the role organizations play in society at large and companies are feeling pressure at the highest levels to be a part of this conversation. Vital statistics from a recent PwC survey:

  • 87% of employees expect the company they work for to offset environmental impact

  • 80% of consumers are more likely to engage with brands that commit to addressing climate change

  • 60% of CFOs prioritize creating investor-grade reporting metrics for ESG

  • 83% of employees are more likely to work for a company that takes a stand vis-a-vis the social issues they care about

  • 80% of corporate directors agree that companies should be doing more to promote diversity in the workplace

  • 60% of corporate directors agree that companies should act on behalf of a broad group of stakeholders, not just shareholders

Broadly speaking, planning for impact pays. Being part of the conversation can ease recruitment and amplify marketing. Designing incentive structures and oversight facilities that reflect a social mission immunizes against temptations to greenwash. These are some of the things that we think about when building the case for ambitious transformations, calculating ROI, and charting out product roadmaps. We listen for our clients’ authentic voice as they articulate purpose and fold this into a wide-angle impact analysis. In addition to growing the top line, we position clients to grow into a better version of themselves.

Recently, a sizable client in the beverage space articulated how central ESG is to their corporate strategy. Showcasing a series of people and planet-friendly efforts, from water stewardship and reduced sugar formulas to innovative compostable bottling techniques, this sector leader has pushed us to think bigger, more globally, and longer term. We’ve seen companies large and small across a wide range of industries embed corporate responsibility into their strategic initiatives. Recent engagements include:

  • Developing a business case for a global manufacturer aligned with one of the world’s dominant cash crops to diversify its product line, tacking toward an offer that promises a net health benefit for its users.

  • Envisioning a multi-source inventory management process for a major CPG brand that would significantly reduce the company’s carbon footprint, a prioritized mission and passion.

  • Collaborating with a large residential and commercial equipment supplier to leverage its connected devices for improved swimming pool safety, helping to prevent injury and death among young children.

Naturally, tension emerges within complex systems that service the pursuit of multiple goals.  Specifically, the balancing act of weighing short-term financial goals with long-term value creation. To this end, we make a determined effort with stakeholders to build a case informed not only by external market trends, but perhaps more importantly by group culture. A fit for one business is wildly inappropriate for another. Nonetheless, even though the process might seem challenging, we see opportunity looking forward. Just on the horizon we expect to engage in strategic collaborations that include:

  • Reducing animal euthenasia by helping a leading pet product manufacturer monetize a benevolent service.

  • Improving outreach to under-represented demographics by advising an ambitious educational institution.

Discerning the indelible mark that remains as proof of work is challenging, personal, and illusory.  I am happy to be part of an organization that endeavors to see beyond the horizon, and believes understanding impact is key to commerce for good.