Many consumers are now familiar with the term Greenwashing and the misleading corporate activities it represents. The Greenwashing Index is a site dedicated to monitoring and tracking advertising claims for accuracy. High profile occurrences such as the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal have resulted in sever financial penalties, direct and indirect. For misleading advertising claims alone, Volkswagen faces a potentially $15 billion penalty from the US Federal Trade Commission. However, sustainability is not the only area where companies are trying to improve their act and put on a new face.
Another major focus area in the push towards Corporate Social Responsibility is employee recruitment and retention. As Karl Moore argues in his Forbes article Millennials Work For Purpose, Not Paycheck many corporate leaders are recognizing this and are creating programs to accommodate this employee trend. In a separate Forbes article 4 Reasons Why A Corporate Volunteer Program Is A Smart Investment Wes Gay demonstrates how these efforts can result in successful and meaningful programs as it did on one case highlighted from Mars Inc. "“We want to make it available to as many associates as possible,”" says Kelly McGrail, Global Staff Officer, Corporate Communications, Mars, Incorporated. The company pays up to 16 hours per year for associates to volunteer in their communities. Mars, Inc. associates logged more than 90,000 volunteer hours globally in 2015."
Programs like the Mars Inc. program should be applauded and the companies that employ them successfully will harvest the benefits on their bottom line. However, when the program design doesn't meet the needs of employees the desired results won't be achieved and depending upon how egregious the program, it may actually backfire, similar to Greenwashing. One new offender in this category is gamification. In the Alternet.org article Jim Hightower: Corporations Use This Cheap Trick to Avoid Paying Employees a Living Wage, employee incentive and engagement programs can quickly take a wrong turn and end up exasperating a common root problems, pay fairness. As Jim details in one account: "United recently announced a new fun game for employees -- rather than giving standard bonus payments this year, bosses were creating a dazzling sweepstakes lottery, with prizes such as luxury cars and $100,000 in cash. But the sizzle quickly fizzled as United's 90,000 workers realized that more than 99 percent of them would get nothing from this big prize scam, which actually would let top executives and big shareholders pocket the bulk of bonus money that was owed to employees. United had hoped the game would create "excitement" among the rank and file, but instead it created resentment. Workers, naturally preferring bonus cash to bogus corporate excitement, rebelled with such fury that United is now reconsidering the switch."
It's encouraging to see the prompt recognition and push back against this misguided attempt from employees and the media. Within the now hyper connected consumer world, corporate brand and reputation management present continual challenges for employers. Every program can't be a home-run, but if at its core its is designed to provide a benefit to all employees, the program will be founded in ethical corporate behavior. From this place companies will achieve the retention and talent acquisition results desired and the accompanying profit gains sought will be realized.