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Transparency: the great brand accelerator?

Sensemaking / Transparency: the great brand accelerator?

Future generations will beggar to believe what we have accepted without query, says Diana Verde Nieto, Founder of Positive Luxury.

08 Apr 2013

Future generations will beggar to believe what we have accepted without query, says Diana Verde Nieto, Founder of Positive Luxury.

‘Transparency’ is the buzzword for 2013. It was on everyone’s lips at the Davos convention back in January, permeating almost every speech and seminar. There have, of course, been whisperings of transparency for a while now, but 2013 is the year it will arrive, infiltrate our daily practices, and get radical.

Expenses fraud, banking, horsemeat, tax avoidance… As global media ricochets from one scandal to the next, it’s clear that no sector will escape the magnifying glass. If you’re licking your wounds, or have something to hide, the increasing demand for transparency is a frightening prospect. In its simplest form, it means people will be held accountable, and every decision will be traceable. In its radical form, it means these decisions will not only be traced, but held up to the light and challenged.

Transparency is fundamentally about trust. Whether you are a bank, supermarket, government or fashion brand, people are no longer prepared to take it at face value that you are doing what you say you are doing.

The astonishing factor is that businesses still seem unable to connect the dots between consumer trust and brand reputation. Shatter that trust, and the cost could be your entire business.

So, surely it’s simple? Build a business with clear values and accessible practices. I can already hear the backlash of global businesses: ‘We are transparent! Just look at our publicly available data…’ Well, that’s good, but it’s not good enough. What your audience really wants is an analyst to process that data and make it easy to evaluate.  

Radical transparency is the movement towards easily digestible data that allows the consumer to know, trust and champion the brand. And its impact will be greater social and environmental efforts across the board.

This is a rapidly growing movement, with increasing commitment from global brands such as Tesco, Wallmart, Timberland, and even the UK Government. For an example, take Paul Polman, who took the helm as CEO of Unilever in 2009. He is on a mission to double Unilever’s revenue while cutting its environmental impact in half, and keeping an eye on the bottom line.

“Businesses that are responsible and actually make a contribution in its positive sense, make it part of their overall business model, will be very successful”, Polman says. “For us, it’s an accelerator of our business.”

The burning question is this: what will future generations beggar to believe we accepted without query? That we bought clothes with no traceable accredited factory displayed on the label? That we consumed food with no idea where it came from? That our money was moved from pillar to post without our consent? Or that we happily accepted a beauty industry that depleted our natural environment…

This is why I believe globally recognised trust marks such as the Fairtrade Foundation, Positive Luxury’s Blue Butterfly and the Red Tractor are so important and influential. They act as an analyst for the consumer, processing and evaluating the data, and giving a brand their seal of approval. They bridge the gap between brands and consumers, allowing people to make informed decisions and to reward the brands they know they can trust.

Diana Verde Nieto is Founder & CEO, Positive Luxury.

What might the implications of this be? What related articles have you seen?

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