The YouGov survey this week reported improvement across the board on retailer collaborative measures versus one year ago. The GCA team is delighted with the gradual progress, recognising there is still a lot to do and that we must not take our foot off the gas. Do remember though that across the same year a major event has rocked this whole arena. The Tesco scandal was so widely covered that consumers took interest in so-called ‘commercial income’ and ‘supplier treatment’.
They were horrified and said so. The green shoots of collaborative behaviour we see are in no small part due to this, which was all driven by media coverage. I was therefore horrified by one throwaway comment I heard at the GCA conference: “The press should not wash our dirty laundry in public.” I feel I can’t leave this without a response. Actually, I would argue that the press is an essential supporting mechanism because this has become a matter of corporate social responsibility for retailers – and publicity helps.
Brands, including retailers, take CSR extremely seriously. The motivation for doing so isn’t necessarily just about conscience: brand values are built developing brand trust and attracting sales. Yes, it’s a marketing tool. Take for example Innocent, which communicates to its target shoppers a message of down-to-earth natural goodness via the widely understood practice of donating 10% of profits to charity. But shoppers equally have a right to know when products and retailers don’t live up to expectations. They can then make up their own mind on how to spend their money. Many shoppers boycotted South African wines in the era of apartheid, for example. In 2001, Nike was exposed for using child labour in the manufacture of certain products. In this case there was only a brief slump in sales before it was widely publicised that the practice had been stopped. Clearly it wasn’t the need to do the right thing that caused Nike to act – it was the fear of shoppers deserting its brand.
So, if retailers don’t want the press reporting on the bullying of suppliers then stop it! We know it’s possible because some are never mentioned in complaints about supplier treatment. Like Nike, clean up your act – just do it.