Atlanta companies should concentrate on making their operations socially-responsible and transparent, according to Jonathan Wootliff, managing director of stakeholder strategies at Brussels-based Edelman Public Relations Worldwide.
Mr. Wootliff said that companies should even consider going so far as to post criticism of their operations on their Web sites in order to cooperate with non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
A former director of communications for Greenpeace International, he spoke about what corporations can do to achieve a “triple bottom line,” or “environmental protection, social justice and profit-making,” at a breakfast meeting hosted by Edelman at the 191 Club last week.
As an example, he cited Coca-Cola Co.’s recent and timely negotiations with Greenpeace that resulted in a new form of refrigeration that does less damage to ozone before the issue became a public relations problem for Coke.
“The business of business is everybody’s business,” said Mr. Wootliff, meaning that corporations must be ready to negotiate with environmental and social “watchdogs, ” such as Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Federation, Conservation International and other advocacy groups that push companies to practice good corporate citizenship.
Mr. Wootliff suggested that companies research the international and local NGOs that might challenge their business practices and begin a dialogue to identify companies’ potential vulnerabilities before problems arise. Corporations should seek NGOs’ advice on controversial issues in order to reach common ground, consulting NGOs on the companies’ public relations messages and mission statements.
“Whether you like them or not, NGOs are here,” said Mr. Wootliff. “And corporate citizenship is going to become common practice, so companies must prepare.”
He suggested companies see www.sustainability.co.uk and www.deloitte.com for “social audit formulas” to construct globally responsible business practices.
Edelman is a global public relations firm with operations in some 140 countries. Contact Edelman at (404) 739-0200.