Opening A Window on Industry
Corporations are facing a crisis of confidence, with consumer trust declining rapidly. For responsible and transparent companies that creates an unprecedented opportunity.
By Mike May, July 13, 2017
Around the world, parents strive to instill honesty in their children. In most societies holding back information is as bad as telling a lie, and that is not a new concept. In the 1st century b.c.e, Roman poet Virgil wrote: “Evil is nourished and grows by concealment.” Today, we expect honesty from our families and from businesses. As we show readers in the pages ahead, it takes a lot of work to make a business transparent and keep it that way.
The sponsor of this publication, SC Johnson, has transparency at the heart of its business, and that’s not just because it makes a great glass cleaner. This company, founded in 1886, grew from a small flooring company to an international powerhouse of consumer products. As Fisk Johnson, chairman and CEO at SC Johnson, tells us here, “I come from a family where we just do things because it’s the right thing to do.” He made time to talk with Elie Dolgin about building trust in the company and with customers around the world, such as making sure they know what’s in a product, including potential fragrance allergens.
Not every company does that, and today’s manufacturers, across a range of industries, face a serious crisis of consumer confidence. As Kelly M. Semrau, senior vice president, global corporate affairs, communication and sustainability at SC Johnson, tells us, “A 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer study revealed the largest-ever drop in trust for institutions, including government, business, media and non-government organizations.” She adds, “Trust in business fell to 52% in 18 countries, and CEO credibility also fell globally.”
In the face of that decline in credibility, companies have only one reasonable option: Open the window on what you do. In short, become more transparent.
As we show here, some companies already focus on being more transparent, as well as ensuring sustainability for their products and production facilities. For example, Charles Choi talks with leaders at the Mars food company and the Pfizer pharmaceutical company about how they use renewable energy sources and revise production methods to be more environmentally friendly. Also, Sharon Guynup takes readers on a tour of Subaru of Indiana Automotive, which is a zero–landfill waste assembly plant.
The work by SC Johnson and other companies promises to change the relationship between creators and consumers — helping us work together to build the trust that we all desire.
This report was created for SC Johnson by Scientific American Custom Media, a division separate from the magazine's board of editors.