J500 Media and the Environment

The Hard Stuff by marisabreg
October 18, 2008, 6:56 pm
Filed under: Business + Politics | Tags: , , , , ,

David Clark told a story in his conference call yesterday about his experience working with a nurse and what she said to do if you make a mistake.

She said that it’s not the mistake that matters; it’s what you do about it that does.

Now we’ve talked in class about a few examples of companies who are doing just this—taking responsibility for “mistakes” they’ve made. After the Gap was found to be using child labour, they’re now hyper-aware of their production practices. Interface, Inc. developed FLOR modular flooring tiles to reduce the amount and impact of carpeting in landfills.

Companies like the Gap, in this case especially, are really putting themselves out there—almost saying sorry for what they’ve done, showing they’ve learned their lesson and that it won’t happen again.

Don’t get me wrong, the mistake the Gap made was heinous. But their commitment to fixing it and preventing it from happening again is a step in the right direction. They’re doing something about it and I think it’s a good example of authenticity, transparency and what to do after making such a serious mistake.

David talked yesterday about what it means to be believable; to communicate with integrity and to honour all aspects of your communication—even (and maybe especially) the hard stuff.

I think the Gap has been so successful with their new social responsibility mandate because they took the bull by the horns and really talked about and took action on it.

Marisa B.


4 Comments so far
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How would this kind of transparency work in your own organization or other companies that want to do the right thing but can’t risk the kind of fiscal downturn that might come with being honest. What would you suggest a company do to be honest and also protect their brand?

Comment by j500

Sorry Kids!

Marisa, I also enjoyed David Clark sharing with us the phrase he heard from the nurse years ago. This phrase was when the nurse said that it’s not the mistake that matters; it’s the actions you make in response to the mistake that does. I can certainly see how this phrase has resonated with David for so many years.
Our class has touched upon Gap as an example numerous times. Gap is such a fantastic example and case study to draw upon. Another recent example is the 2007 Mattel recalls. According to many sources including Parents.Com and MarketingBlurb.com, Mattel Inc., the world’s largest toy importing company based on revenue, experienced recalling over 10 million toys in 2 weeks.
The list of recalls can be found on Mattel’s corporate website (http://www.mattel.com/safety/index.asp).
The recalls due to design flaws and lead based paint were deemed responsible for these recalls. Mattel took full responsibility for the magnet recalls and said that vast majorities were due to design flaws. A Vice President for Mattel said, “Mattel takes full responsibility for these recalls and apologizes personally to you, the Chinese people, and all of your customers who received the toys” (Wikipedia.com). In response to the lead paint recalls, according to CNN, Robert Eckert CEO of Mattel Inc., apologized and insisted that Mattel’s safety standards were above and beyond (http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/08/14/recall/index.html). He later was quoted to say, “We were let down, and so we let you down,” referring to the three massive product recalls for lead contamination of paint.
Our company works with one of the largest safety testing labs in the world. Our process is dramatically different from Mattel’s in that we provide toys for the restaurant industry for consumers at no cost where Mattel is selling toys in the retail world. Our safety standards far exceed those set in place by the Product and Safety Consumer Commission. However, no one wants to think about finding themselves in the situation where Mattel landed. Mattel, Gap and many other companies are good case studies to draw upon when an organization finds itself in the place David Clark mentioned. A place where a mistake has occurred, and one is challenged to take action in response to the mistake.

Comment by jenjenku

When a company like Gap is caught making a mistake, I would think there would be some consumers who feel like they could never trust that company again. How does a company like this do enough to regain trust? What can you do to get away from being reactive and be more proactive?

Comment by hilarywright

Hi Simran,

These are good (and complex) questions.

I think this kind of transparency could work in my or other organizations facing economic difficulty if they were to own up to not-so-perfect practices. Like David said, it’s not the mistake; it’s what you do about it.

Perhaps if a company were to take an inventory of impact points – find out where it could begin to make changes – it could start with changing some of the smaller things; some of the easier, quick adjustments and combine them with a commitment statement (advertising, public and media relations, etcetera) to continue to examine what kinds of modifications it can implement in the future. So the focus becomes the small changes now and the endeavor to continue onto the larger stuff when and where possible.

So then after having come clean, in an effort to be authentic, the challenge would be to continue to make those changes along the way and be accountable for the promises the company makes. The organization should only make statements it knows it can live up to. Otherwise, the effort to be transparent could be lost.

Mrisa B.

Comment by marisabreg

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