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April 24, 2019

After the Notre-Dame Fire: Lessons from businesses doing good

Written by Don Scales
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There is hope among the ruins. In the aftermath of the devastating fire that engulfed Notre-Dame Cathedral April 15, a number of businesses and individuals have pledged more than $1 billion to rebuild Notre-Dame. The corporate donors include Apple, Bouygues, Capgemini, IBM, JCDecaux, Disney, L’Oreal, LVMHG Group, Société Générale, and Total, among others. Business leaders have pledged sizable donations from their personal fortunes. The outpouring of donations underscores an important reality of corporate goodwill: when you do good, let the world know – tastefully and with humanity.

Giving Back

At Investis Digital, we often work with businesses to tell the stories about their commitment to making the world a better place, oftentimes through an embrace of sustainability/ESG. These businesses have made long-term investments to give back to their communities and to the world more broadly. On our blog, we’ve recently discussed examples of how businesses use marketing and communications to share their stories. For instance: 

  • Procter & Gamble made global news when it announced its participation in Loop, a new e-commerce platform developed by international recycling company TerraCycle.
  • Patagonia has engaged in an high-profile effort to protect the environment, including the Launch of a Vote Our Planet campaign, which encourages people to vote for political leaders who share Patagonia’s commitment to environmental sustainability. 

 These companies offer a few lessons about corporate goodwill:

1. It’s Important to Share Your Acts of Goodwill

Telling the world about your acts of goodwill has a ripple effect especially if you’re a bellwether brand. It’s no coincidence that corporations have rapidly followed each other to announce their donations to rebuild Notre-Dame. One donation begets another. When businesses notice the actions of their peers, they are encouraged to step up, too. In the area of sustainability/ESG, it’s a common practice for businesses to devote entire sections of their websites to help customers, shareholders, and employees learn about what they’re doing to be sustainable. Examples include Cisco, Estée Lauder, Patagonia, and many others. 

2. Humanize Your Acts of Goodwill

Issuing corporate press releases is important to spread the word. In addition, as you do good, let people tell your story. For example, Apple CEO Tim Cook used his personal Twitter account to announce Apple’s contribution: 

Notre Dame Fire

Because Cook used social media, his heartfelt message went viral and generated strong engagement, too. There are many other ways to humanize your actions. For example, the Body Shop sources its products from ethical businesses in developing areas. Across digital media, the Body Shop shares stories about the businesses it works with, such as the Tungteiya Women’s Shea Butter Association in Ghana, which provides shea butter for the Body Shop and empowers women in Ghana at the same time. Here we see a company relying on a high-concept video, as contrasted with Tim Cook’s tweet. Both are effective for accomplishing goals of creating awareness and inspiring action.

A Long-Term Commitment

Rebuilding the Notre-Dame Cathedral won’t happen overnight, and the road ahead is going to be difficult. In addition, efforts to rebuild have attracted some backlash and questions about why donors don’t do more to give back to society in other ways. The public debate is healthy, and it underscores a reality: if you seek to do good, you’re going to need to monitor public sentiment. A business donor may hear some important feedback that raises awareness for other ways to give back to the world. This is not to say that companies should reconsider their commitments – rather, be aware of the broader context, compare social sentiment against what your customers, employees, and shareholders tell you, and be prepared for a long-haul effort. 

Contact Investis Digital

At Investis Digital, we often work with companies to create strategies and marketing/communications programs that communicate their sustainability commitment to investors, customers, and employees. As a next step, we suggest assessing your corporate brand to better understand gaps and opportunities around leveraging your story to drive business impact. Contact us to learn more.

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