Business 101 – Do Not Poison Your Customers

One of my greatest passions has become food. Not because I love to eat or enjoy testing out new recipes. It became a passion once I learned what corporate America was actually passing off as food to the public. I am appalled with our industrial agriculture system and the chemistry experiment we devour every day to the benefit of quarterly earnings. Unfortunately, we cannot trust companies or the FDA to ensure what we are sold actually makes sense for a human to consume.

With that in mind, I recently came across an article in Fast Company that takes a look at Procter & Gamble’s stated devotion to sustainable, green products. It became clear in only a few paragraphs that P&G wanted to bathe itself in sustainable messaging, but words and a few nods to energy efficiency does not equal sustainable truth. As the reporter moved beyond the prepackaged interview with the company’s VP of global sustainability, he learned “that the amounts of hazardous chemicals consumers are exposed to through P&G products are at levels a thousand times lower than those that cause health problems in animals.” What? Why would a company ever use manufactured chemicals labeled as a “probable human carcinogen” at any level. The VP stated, “I know for a fact that everything in our products is safe.” Perhaps he should check his research with the European Union and the states of Virginia and Maryland who have banned P&G products deemed toxic.

Don’t be evil. This is the stated motto of Google and should be the rallying cry for all. But as with most corporate PR messages, it is just words founded in nothing to help shape a crafted image of the company. Communication transparency is not just an option with the growing social advances provided from Web 2.0, but a reality that I do not think companies have yet grasped. The era of developing messaging and providing prepared statements is over. For decades reporters have tried to cut through the empty statements given by corporate talking heads, but now companies can and are required to communicate directly to its customers. No longer can no comment or a convoluted response that actually says nothing be the last word. A company is guilty until proven innocent because history has shown there is reason to expect the former and consumers dismiss corporate speak sight on seen. Not answering a question directly results in the assumption that the truth is as bad or worse than that which a company is accused. Respond truthfully early and often is the only option…that and do not sell sugar coated poison. It really is not any harder than that.

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