Within the last few years, companies have started increasing their transparency. They share important information such as employee’s salaries and revenue number, and these sorts of posts are often the most read ones. It doesn’t just attract potential customers, but readers of all kinds.
Transparency can win over the general public, employees, shareholders and customers. It helps the business earn a certain level of trust, and companies are now increasingly expected to reveal information as standard, from executive salaries to tax records. Here’s why some successful businesses decided to achieve transparency.
Whole Foods has faced deep scrutiny in the past for being a business known for setting higher prices on natural foods (unlike average grocery stores). Transparency became their priority when they were accused of mislabeling their products. Thus, they started working on becoming the first natural foods grocery chain to offer full GMO transparency. This requires each one of their products to pass a verification process. Their suppliers are also encouraged to have their products undergo a verification.
The company believes that industry-wide transparency will be encouraged by their own decision to make a commitment to be transparent concerning GMO products. Whole Foods received a lawsuit regarding the product mislabeling, and even though achieving transparency is a good way for preventing further troubles, employing a good consumer fraud attorney is also required to protect yourself from possible customer lawsuits and accusations.
One of the statements in the footwear retailer's “core values” is to “build open and honest relationships with communication”, which directly states their transparency principle. Zappos Insights is an entire department in the company which facilitates live training events and tour of the Zappos headquarters. Visitors can schedule Q&A sessions, and get their answers on the company’s marketing, user experience and customer service from the leaders of those specific departments.
The CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, provided insightful information and explanations about the company’s transparency in his book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. There, he states that the company’s vendors were granted access to information so they don’t feel like they’re being kept in the dark and need to guard their secrets.
Patagonia has realized that they can reduce their negative environmental and social impacts they might have by providing transparency throughout its supply chain. Disclosure of information about environmentally-unfriendly ways of their distributors and manufacturers caught many companies off guard, so Patagonia (an outwear company) has taken a proactive approach to it. In order to make sure no harm or damage is being made in their production processes, the company took the responsibility on itself.
They named the project Footprint Chronicles – whenever a website visitor clicks on an item on their website, they have access to a series of videos related to that product. In these videos, every step of the supply chains is shown and explained. Customers can then click over to the main project page to inform themselves on the Patagonia’s general supply chain. If there’s a need to improve a certain manufacturing processes, it is stated right there in the video and customers are invited to give feedback on potential solutions.
How to achieve transparency?
We’re moving towards norms revolved around sustainability and transparency, not only business-wise, but as a society in general. Companies who wish to survive and grow in this environment should adjust their business strategies and follow a few guidelines in order to make it happen.
- What got you into the business in the first place? Pursuing profits is an obvious reason for starting your own business, but that shouldn’t be the sole reason for your business’ existence. What is your mission? Do you commit to protect and improve the health of the public? Remain focused on your profits, but also show your commitment to sincerely helping the world become a better place.
- Do you live your mission? Being insincere and writing a bunch of things you don’t even believe in just to mask your true intentions won’t work. Live your mission and make it drive your every decision, because it will help with customer acquisition, bring the right employees, and pave your startup path.
- Tell a story. By telling an authentic story about your business, you elevate your products from being “just things” to covetable products.
Besides making a good business sense, transparency makes a good ethical sense as well. We can make our companies more successful if we should actually be transparent, and just cut through the same old superficial talk about the matter. Why is transparency so appealing? It is greatly due to human behavior and cultural trends. You really get to know a person when they are transparent, and it’s the same with companies. It’s about being a real company, a real leader, and a real person.
About Nate Vickery
Nate M. Vickery is a business consultant from Sydney, Australia. He has a degree in marketing and almost a decade of experience in company management through latest technology trends.