It was no surprise that at NRF this week, a big topic of conversation was brands’ responsibility to stand behind social and environmental causes. 2020, of course, was marked by an international pandemic, the BLM movement, and an incredibly contentious election. In light of what was happening in the world, all businesses were forced to reflect on what they stand for and how they use their resources to improve the world around them.
As the moderator of Wednesday’s session on social responsibility noted, “Being a socially responsible company is no longer a point of distinction, it’s the expectation among stakeholders-- customers, employees, and capital investors.”
NRF invited executives from two large brands to the table to discuss the role of social responsibility within retail; Ron Jarvis, chief sustainability officer at The Home Depot; and Dave Kimbell, ULTA Beauty president.
We walked away from the session with two key takeaways and a renewed excitement around the role that Retail Zipline plays in helping brands drive their initiatives forward.
1. All Employees Need to be Included
For social initiatives to take hold at a company, the entire workforce needs to be aligned. As Dave Kimbell of ULTA mentioned, “When employees feel connected to the brand and feel that their personal values align with corporate values, they show up better for customers and each other.”
The challenge for most companies is aligning employees and providing them with the information and training they need to understand what the brand stands for and what their role is in driving the initiatives forward. Dave shared that he thought ULTA was doing well in the area of social justice but the team provided feedback in 2020 and said that the company could be doing more. This small example shows that companies are often not empowering their employees the way they think they are.
Because associates are closest to customers and what’s happening at the local level, Dave shared the importance of listening closely to associates to understand their opinions and what they’re hearing from customers. He shared that while you can’t act on everything, you need to know how your impact is viewed outside of HQ.
2. The Importance of Agility
As we saw in 2020, the world changes quickly and brands need to remain flexible and reactive, especially when it comes to social responsibility. You can’t plan for everything, and when you need to react quickly, you need the systems in place to align the team, down to the last store associate.
Without the systems in place, you will always have disconnected employees and run the risk of activities that fly in the face of your brand values. But when the communications system is working and all employees are aligned, magic happens. Ron shared an anecdote about how all the buyers at Home Depot understand the company’s sustainability vision and objectives so they can make the best decisions for the company every time. He doesn’t have to worry about their choices because everyone is aligned.
Retailers that use Zipline are at a great advantage when it comes to rolling out strategic initiatives. Rolling out any new program requires organizational alignment. But, when it comes to rolling out something as important as D&I, ESG, or CSR plans, you need to ensure that every single level of your organization, from frontline associates up to the C-suite, understands the company’s vision and the role they play in making that vision come to life. In short? You need clear communication and a platform that ensures your messages are received, heard, and understood.
But communication isn’t just about broadcasting a message. It’s about feedback. That’s why Zipline provides real-time peer-to-peer dialogue. Zipline’s Groups is a chat module that employees can easily access right from a mobile device, so they don’t need to leave the sales floor to provide input, share feedback or relay what they’re seeing at the store level. That way, HQ can get a clear picture of what’s happening in stores without having to wait for emails and insights to work their way up the chain.
In short, Zipline allows you to mobilize your people to drive more effective change.
If you are planning a big rollout around your social initiatives or are just looking to upgrade your store communications platform to a solution that solves for personalized messages by role or location, effective task management, compliance, feedback and so much more, please reach out. We’d love to connect!