All in CR

Lots of juicy factoids and information today that add a little more to my thinking on new communication memes:

  • Twitter_logo_header Of the many striking statistics in a report called 'Inside Twitter' out of Canada's Sysomos people, this one stands out for evidence of the sheer stupidity of the hordes who now call themselves  'social media consultants': "Of people who identify themselves as social media marketers, 65.5% have never posted an update (on Twitter)."  I guess they just can't be bothered . . . or don't have time?
  • To be filed under the tab 'Public Relations Through the Rear View Mirror', according to an article today in the Ottawa Citizen Canada's National Defence HQ has a new 'conduit' approach to public relations (in which all media questions are funneled through public affairs staff, with the journalist never allowed to speak to a subject matter expert directly) that the writer calls the 24 DAY news cycle: "Into this brave new world of hyper-speed news gathering, NDHQ has rolled out what I’ve termed, the “24-day news cycle. Yes, 24 days…..That’s about the length of time I figure that it takes NDHQ to answer a question from the news media…..if it is answered at all."

  • Bear with me on this one. Those who follow me on Twitter will know that as a native 'Geordie' I am an ardent -- and frustrated, some would say foolish -- supporter of the Newcastle United football club, formerly of the English Premier League now relegated to tier two football as a result of an abysmal season this past year. Thankfully, the owner has put the club up for sale (at 0,,10278~3488677,00 about US$200 million). Before he did so, he published a statement in which he said "I'm sorry" about four or five times. Frankly, it sounded hollow given Ashley's unwillingness to invest in the club and his lack of commitment to its success in spite of having one of the most loyal fan bases of any football club. The lesson here is simple . . . saying 'Im sorry' in a crisis is not enough. An apology has to be backed up by action to resolve the underlying problem. In this case, the owner getting out is the right move, although that is not counsel I would give to many CEOs.

  • Finally, this about philanthropic giving . . . "Today, the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP) shares a first-look at results from its annual philanthropy survey of nearly 140 leading companies, revealing that 53% of companies increased their total philanthropic donations in 2008, and 27% increased their giving by more than 10% year-over-year." So things are not as bad as the CR critics would have us believe.


Reputation risk for companies is an underestimated consequence of global concern about climate change. Rather than expending more inventive energy on denying a relationship between CO2 concentrations and global temperature, smart businesses should be looking for ways to gain come reputation capital by managing climate change risks in cooperation with communities and global agencies.

Last week, the UN Global Compact and the Pacific Institute released a short paper on climate change and its impact on water which recommends a number of sensible management strategies. The context for the paper is the statement that:

"There is overwhelming scientific evidence that burning fossil fuels has altered the chemistry of the atmosphere. Figure 1 shows that atmospheric CO2 concentrations are reaching levels that are likely higher than in the last 20 million years.Rising CO2 concentrations along with other greenhouse gases (GHG) are changing the planet’s climate. Global mean temperatures have increased three-quarters of a degree Celsius since 1900 and 11 of the 12 warmest years since 1850 have occurred since 1996.These climatic changes are expected to accelerate over the coming decades."

The paper argues that a significant body of scientific evidence suggests climate change will affect the scarcity, sustainability and quality of the global water supply, which increases business risk, especially with respect to energy supply management, raw material inventories, industrial production systems and the associated financing costs.

Reputation risks can easily follow, for example as "people become more aware of their rights to access water . . . local businesses may find themselves using copious amounts of water in regions where people lack sufficient water to meet basic needs."

The paper outlines some business strategies which mirror two dominant themes on how businesses today need to think of corporate responsibility (CR): CR as part of business strategy discussions (integrating "water and climate change into strategic business planning and operational activities") and engagement of stakeholders in responsible planning (engaging "key stakeholders as a part of water and climate risk assessment, long-term planning and implementation activities").

The Economist, not normally a booster of corporate social responsibility (CSR) or sustainability as it  tends to be known in Europe, this week has a piece on CSR that hits the mark. The author concludes that corporate philanthropy (contributions to charitable causes) is being cleaved but the attention being paid to behaviour -- ethics and governance in particular -- is holding steady, as it should.

"There is one other important reason for thinking that companies will maintain their commitments to sustainability through the downturn and beyond: the need to restore confidence in business. The financial crisis was triggered by a bout of corporate social irresponsibility on a massive scale that has tarnished the reputations of even the bluest of blue-chip companies. Now corporate leaders have a chance to show that they are not just motivated by short-termism after all."

As Intel (a client) says in the management analysis and strategy portion of its 2008 corporate responsibility report (Note . . . I agree with ridding CSR of its restrictive 'S'),  "By incorporating corporate responsibility directly into our strategy and objectives, we manage our business more effectively and understand our impact on the world more clearly."

Corporate or 'strategic' philanthropy is a programmatic means by which a company contributes to its community. Philanthropy evidences a corporate recognition that profits are derived from the community and that a return to the community in the form of wages paid for labor and consistent dividend payments to shareholders as well as steady share price growth is -- at least in terms of today's social expectations -- insufficient.

Communities expect companies to give back, and companies have obliged either through random acts of kindness or more structured investments in causes which match company values or business goals.

But let's be honest. Philanthropy is unlikely to define or affect company behaviour when it comes to choosing business strategy, rewarding employees, managing supply chain relationships, committing to respectful and sensitive business principles and overseeing board and C-suite conduct. 

A generous philanthropy program, and commitment to a cause, can comfortably sit side-by-side with dishonest accounting, excessive senior executive compensation, autocratic and harsh management, deferential governance, poor labour and sourcing practices, and denial of environmental impact. Philanthropy provides a reputational sheen, but it doesn't de facto require ethical conduct or a socially astute business strategy. Philanthropy buys goodwill but it doesn't drive responsible behaviour nor build social trust.

If The Economist is right, and I think it is, and the decline in spending on smoke-screen philanthropy is NOT being matched by a retreat from investment (time, focus, intensity) in better behaviour, then maybe out of the current crisis we will see a steady push-back within companies against insular corporate boards, inappropriate rock star-like CEO salaries, and short-sighted and opaque business strategies.

Spirited debates happen all the time when people talk about corporate responsibility (CR) especially now that our economies are stumbling along and evidence continues to leak out about the governance missteps that led to egregious examples of greed-driven shortsightedness.

Research studies and white papers on the subject also proliferate, at least as fast and as often as politicians blaming their predecessors for current problems.

Here are a few that have made their appearance recently:

  • The Conference Board released the results of a survey yesterday on the future of corporate giving programs. Corporate giving officers are noticing their companies are concerned about their overall financial health when considering the allotment of their philanthropy dollars. Not surprising. But remember, public expectations about behavior -- and the punishment it inflicts on transgressors -- are not significantly influenced by random acts of kindness no matter how generous or strategic.
  • Yesterday, the Rotman/AIC Institute for Corporate Citizenship also released what it calls "a real-world guide that helps business leaders understand and prioritize key social and environmental issues and identify opportunities as well as potential risks." Called 'What's a CEO to do?", it is described as a toolkit and is built on a model introduced by Rotman School of Management dean, Roger Martin, called the "virtue matrix" which he wrote about in HBR a few  years ago. I haven't had a chance yet to do a deep dive into it, but Rotman often produces worthwhile management frameworks. (Disclosure . . . I have an M.B.A. from Rotman.)
  • The third is truly timely . . . an article in the Deloitte Review called "The Responsible and Sustainable Board. (Sorry I can't find a link to it but it is Issue #4, 2009). It includes a warning to boards of directors that "Even if your organization is disinclined to tackle CR&S issues voluntarily, you may ultimately have no choice if, as expected, regulatory requirements take hold." 

Maybe there will be some kind of retrenchment back into the philosophy of 'the business of business is business'. (Simply wishful thinking on the part of cave-dwellers?) Evidently though it doesn't stop the think tanks from thinking about it.

Since I have such respect for the quality of writing and ideas (although not always the politics) in the British magazine The Spectator, I am always delighted when the point of view of an editor or writer corresponds to my own. (I am not foolish enough to think there is any correlation between the two other than coincidence).

So imagine my contentment in reading the February 14th number when both the lead editorial and a column by Sarah Standing echoed comments I have posted here and here over the past few weeks.

Sarah Standing on saying sorry:

" 'Sorry' has lost its mojo for me, it's gone mainstream. It's one of those words that began life as a covetable Chanel handbag only to end up as a worthless flake flogged on eBay . . . I no longer believe in all these force-fed public apologies. They're starting to sound very hollow . . . I'm old school and from where I stand a true apology should come from the heart."

And not, I would add, because a crisis communications or political consultant has said it is necessary to apologize when harm has been caused. Without sincerity an apology is nothing more than gamesmanship. 

The editorial 'Bonus Points' calls out many British bankers for the damage caused by the huge payouts they received, which lead as the editors conclude to the wrong balancing of risk and reward

"Bankers must face reality and bring about changes themselves, rather than trying to face down public disgust with a last-ditch defence of the status quo. Their profession has to revert to being dull but respectable, decently but not lavishly paid, transparent in its accounting practices and the way it measures profits, intelligently regulated, and by nature risk-averse. And if that means talented people drift away from the banking sector, so be it: there are plenty of other parts of the economy that urgently need them".

Better said than by me, but at least my ideas are in line with some top notch writers.

It should be unnecessary after so many years of the corporate responsibility (CR) "movement" -- if it is right to call it that -- to have to jump to its defense and provide arguments for why CR makes a difference. But the harrumphing of the troglodytes has started again, this time under the pretext of determining whether our wretched global economy will cause companies to re-think CR actions and investments.

In one of those dismissive, glib pieces favored by business journalists when writing about CR, Stefan Stern of the Financial Times (registration required) writes from Davos "Thank goodness, now the recession’s here we can forget all that nonsense about corporate social responsibility (CSR) and get back to trying to make some money." Canada's own Terence Corcoran followed suit in his remarks to a recent panel on CR reported in one of Canada's national newspapers.

Communications professional Paul Seaman takes up the discussion in his blog and comes down somewhere in between supporting the preeminent goal of business to make profit yet recognizing that "Traditional values and professional ethics will become highly valued virtues and the true measure of corporate responsibility."

More often than not, the critics use ideology rather than evidence to back up their arguments. They ignore books like Lynn Sharp Paine's exhaustive study of the financial benefits of responsible conduct called Value Shift (Sharp Paine is the John G. McLean professor of business administration at Harvard Business School), or a recent study published in MIT's Sloan Management Review called Does it Pay to be Good? The conclusion of this study by two professors at Canada's Ivey School of Business about consumer behaviour and sustainability:

"Yes customers will pay a premium for ethically produced goods. Conversely, they will punish companies (by demanding a lower price) that are not seen as ethical. The punishment exacted is greater than the premium customers are willing to pay. Companies need to be 100% ethical to be rewarded."

Detractors like Stern and David Henderson (author of Misguided Virtue: False Notions of Corporate Social Responsibility) also don't seem to be able to make the connection between the frequent lapses in ethical judgment of some senior executives and the idea that "profit" at any cost -- without the filter of some moral or ethical framework (a basic tenet of corporate responsibility especially as it relates to governance)-- can be a precursor to greed. And look at what unrestrained greed has wrought today.

Will there be a step back from good governance, social engagement, committed citizenship, defense of human rights, product innovation driven by environmental concerns, willing social and environmental problem identification and resolution, and efforts by companies to control their GHG emissions? I doubt it. Why would companies set aside years of building reputation capital (an intangible with enormous financial value) for a short-term retreat from responsible conduct? Why would senior executives look on now as an appropriate time to set aside public concerns, when trust in many of them has eroded even further over the past six months and led to precipitous government and regulatory action?

Bruce Sewell, posting on Intel's CSR blog from Davos, (disclosure . . . my company's client although I don't work on the account) made this observation about the mood of the meetings: "Gone was the patina of entitlement, replaced instead with a palpable sense that at some profound level this collection of bankers, regulators and politicians had failed to read the writing on the wall, and for that omission the world as we know it will pay a stiff price."

The CR "movement" can only benefit from a flight from entitlement, from some sense of guilt about transgressions, from a recognition that a "stiff price" may be exacted from those who don't take care to act responsibly . . . or are dismissive.

In spite of Casey Stengel's warning to "Never make predictions, especially about the future", I will anyway.

  1. Companies will continue to struggle over the question of creating a corporate blog. In fact, there will likely be only minimal incremental uptake, at least by North American CEOs. The risks are frankly great and the perceived benefits too marginal. A CEO would have to accept three things in order to blog: There is value in being seen as a leader who is willing to have his or her personality, ideas and quirks on show; Freedom from weakness, miscalculation and error are not commodities valued by citizens, markets and employees -- honesty is; Disagreement, discussion and criticism are necessary for progress. (All three ideas are at the core of Web 2.0.) 
  2. Trust in corporations will continue to decline, although it is hard to imagine it getting any lower given recent examples of the manipulative shenanigans of U.S. financial industry executives. The latest evidence? Researchers at Forrester found that when it comes to trust " Only 16% of online consumers who read corporate blogs say they trust them." Yes, this says something about corporate blogs (see #1). But it is really about the endemic mistrust of corporate executives given their propensity to ignore ethical lapses.
  3. Corporate social responsibility will not decline in 2009. Even the most obdurate CEOs will recognize the trust deficit won't be chipped away if they sidestep expectations for sustainable business decisions and ethical conduct.
  4. Further, more companies will recognize that business strategy can benefit from assimilating care for the impact of products and services on the environment. As Peter Drucker pointed out in 1968 “Social responsibility objectives need to be built into the strategy of a business, rather than merely be statements of good intentions.”
  5. Twitter, which for me is a means of staying surrounded by smart ideas, will not be the social media panacea dreamed of by marketers. Attempts to get people to "follow" product-based tweets will be ignored unless, like @jacqsava at Soak Wash (not a client), you bring the person behind the product to the dance.
  6. My posts will cover the same subjects, but will feature more creative presentation. Think charts, diagrams, pictures and videos.

Bricks_clipart

Only number six is in my wheelhouse to do something about . . . show me how and you can hold me to it.
 

Some companies are beginning to wonder what to do with their corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports, those glossy annual attempts to prove -- and justify -- "responsibility" initiatives. Others are debating whether to publish one.

The conventional model of the annual CSR report is built on the annual corporate report archetype, that snapshot in time of business focus, performance, and strategy. Meant to meet statutory reporting requirements of the jurisdictions in which an organization's stock is traded, annual reports are also sometimes a marketing tool (as is often the true intention of a CSR report). The most important part of the annual report is the management discussion and analysis, the part that competitors, investment bankers and financial analysts read . . . and hardly anyone else.

In most jurisdictions, there are no statutory obligations to produce a CSR report, no nothing compelling external reasons. And maybe they have had their day.  Some who have been in the game a long time are recognizing the limitations of this traditional reporting mechanism. CSR reports seldom satisfy a company's critical audiences, even if they are informed by stakeholder panels who help the organization ensure it is reporting on the right things.

Those with some stake in the company's activities (neighbors, local governments, environmental or human rights watchdogs) want a less static, less marketing-oriented means of narrating corporate assurances and successes in achieving CSR goals. They tend to favor more timely reporting on progress, increased interaction and discussion of CSR goals. What they are looking for is something that is less a report and more a platform for engagement and problem solving. And what employees? Well frankly only a minority likely read it.

As Scott Liebs, deputy editor of CFO magazine, suggest in a piece (link is below) on CSR reporting we ere moving to a new reporting model:

“… companies … need to focus less on the [CSR] report and more on the reporting, conceiving of it as a continuous activity that is as critical to running the business as it is to selling the business.”

And Alex Hausmann The Timberland Company's CSR reporting manager argues the same recently in an article in Environmental Leader:

"As an organization we needed to move from static data in CSR reports to more dynamic information exchange; from corporate statement to stakeholder engagement; and from delayed annualized information to quarterly updates on CSR progress."

Timberland has moved to quarterly reporting on 15 CSR performance indicators including trend data, context and analysis. The benefit of this approach is that it is more a more coincident (with current programs) and lively interface between a company and its customers, partners and critics. It promotes, even mandates engagement.

They're on the right track.

CRO Magazine this week announced the winners of its 2008 CEO of the Year Awards. They recognize "effective leaders in professionalizing corporate responsibility practices—governance, risk, compliance, sustainability, philanthropy and CSR—within their own organizations." (The list is below)

I like the idea that CRO Magazine provides a range of awards for diverse types of organizations. Managing governance issues for Intel is much different than doing so in a small organization like Climate Exchange PLC. Managing the risk profile of Salesforce.com is of a lower order of complexity than watching over risk for the City of Chicago.

The City of Chicago you ask? Well, yes. Chicago mayor Richard Daley is one of the winners. Would I could be at the award ceremony on October 29th to get the scoop on what Mayor Daley has done to put the city on the track of sound governance.

And I can't let the last award-winner go without a nod . . . Jeffrey Hollender of Seventh Generation carries the title of Chief Inspired Protagonist and blogs under the name Inspired Protagonist. New and enthusiastic job titles fascinate me . . . but would it be curmudgeonly to suggest there may be a deficit of humility in this one?   

And the winners are:

Large Market Public Company ($1+ billion 2007 revenues):  Paul Otellini, President & CEO, Intel Corp

Mid Market Public Company ($100 million-$1 billion 2007 revenues):  Marc Benioff, CEO, Salesforce.com

Small Market Public Company (<$100 million 2007 revenues): Neil Eckhart, CEO, Climate Exchange PLC

Non-Profit & Non-Governmental Organization:  Charles Moore, Executive Director, Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy

Government:  Richard Daley, Mayor of Chicago

Corporate Foundation:  Stanley Litow, President, IBM International Foundation & Vice President IBM Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs

Social Entrepreneur:  Jeffrey Hollender, President & Chief Inspired Protagonist, Seventh Generation

I will be posting something over the next week or so, either here or on forceforgood.com, about the value of moving corporate responsibility (CR) reporting to some form of social media facilitated platform rather than the traditional print CR report.

In the mean time, my Washington colleague Chad Tragakis directed me to a report in Environmental Leader from the Natural Marketing Institute which ranks the most effective sources of communication about corporate responsibility programs. Interestingly, the chart below ranks a company's website as a legitimate and effective method of communication on equal footing with reports from independent third parties or independent ratings and well ahead of a company's CSR report:

News-and-websites-7408

 More on the implications of this soon.

I have an article on corporate apologies in the latest issue of Ampersand, Hill & Knowlton's online "magazine". 

This is my third piece or post on the subject, and although the argument will have a long shelf-life, I suspect I should give it a rest. I will end (well maybe) with a quote from my H&K colleague Chris Gidez who takes a somewhat different approach to the issue in a post from earlier in the year: "But at the end of the day, such an expression (apology - my note) is nothing more than a Band-Aid.  It doesn't cure the ill."

If you come to the issue of corporate apologies from the perspective of ethics, can I also recommend you take a look at the article in the same issue by Stuart Smith and Carole Essex on the sustainable enterprise.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a new website in beta from a UK-based advocacy group/think tank called Tomorrow's Company.

The official launch of the website takes place on Tuesday, 15 July 2008 with a webcast from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. (GMT). You can register for the webcast here using the password FFG. I intend to drop in . . . virtually of course. 

The event will review what led up to the development of the site, announce the names of who are being called the first forceforgood pioneers, ("individuals from across the world who make business a force for good"), and set out "programmes, policies and activities to support and reinforce business being a force for good."

Key note contributors to the webcast will include:

Richard Reid, KPMG

          Adrian Hosford,  BT

Mark Goyder, founding director of Tomorrow's Company

Tony Manwaring, CEO of Tomorrow's Company

Tashi Lassalle, Heidrick & Struggles (a sponsor of the website)

Nandan Nilekani, co-chairman of Infosys Technologies Ltd


So we are to believe that the commitment of executives to environmental responsibility is wavering. According to a study by the the gandalf group reported in Canada's The Globe and Mail, 152 Canadian executives are less sure than they were 15 months ago that a carbon tax is a good idea  and no longer support a cap-and-trade system for carbon management with the same zeal.

As is pointed out, the results evidence some pulling back on environmental responsibility because of the imagined costs of economic turmoil and the impact of punishing increases in the price of oil. "Ensuring an adequate supply of energy is much more important to executives than fighting climate change or controlling energy prices," concludes the report. Support for a carbon tax has fallen from 63% in February 2007 to 47% today. Support for a cap-and-trade system has also fallen from 57% to 47% over the same period

There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth as people see evidence in this of lack of fealty to sustainability among Canadian corporations. Sure enough the Globe and Mail sought out interviews with executives who confirm they are even questioning the effect of GHGs on global warming. (Ignoring strangely an article just a few days before by Rick George, president and CEO of Suncor Energy Inc., expressing strong support for linking corporate objectives to social realities).

But when you factor in a confidence index of +/- 7.32% the ambivalence is hardly definitive and not especially shocking. The results may in fact be over-stating a decline that is not surprising really and not indicative perhaps of anything more than a reasonable caution in the face of economic instability.

There is also some good news in the study that shows some forward (if slightly defensive) thinking. Approximately 87% of respondents support government investment in emerging technologies: 85% support building new nuclear plants and 78% backed major investments in wind and solar energy alternatives. And aren't these alternatives the best and lasting answer to climate change?

Vehicle_electric What I found most troubling is the comment about government investment in emerging technologies. Haven't we been told time-and-again by business that it is a better midwife to innovation than government? Look at what GM is doing with its Chevy Volt. Let's not start asking for handouts.

 

Web_shot The people at Tomorrow's Company will launch a new beta web site next week called Force for Good. (Its holding page can be found here until the official launch scheduled for July 15th.) The group will be using the site to build a community of interest, news and debate focused on what I think is a unique and strong point of view on the evolving relationship between business, society and government.

The vision of Tomorrow's Company (TC) is "to create a future for business which makes equal sense to staff, shareholders and society" and it describes itself as a 'think-and-do-tank'  (nice that!)

There are many organizations and consultants (including me under the auspices of Hill & Knowlton) who look to help businesses understand and apply corporate responsibility and sustainability principles and ideas to corporate policies, programs, governance and reporting. 

But TC has a different starting point than many non-government organizations, if indeed that's the right descriptor. In a meeting yesterday with TC's CEO Tony Manwaring and Force for Good web manager Ivor Gibbons they outlined an inclusive point of view on corporate responsibility that underscores the interdependence of business, civil society and government. It is a more realistic, ideology-resistant and sane framework within which to think about the future of business in a troubled world. 

When up and running, TC's Force For Good will be an online platform for case studies, essays, toolkits, and sustainbility and CR news with functionality allowing videos, podcasts, blogs and it is hoped user-focused forums. Given TC's inclusive standpoint, the web site will bring a refreshingly sensible tone to the CR and sustainability conversation.

And, yes, they are going to let me blog on the site.

As part of a series of breakfast sessions hosted by the communications consultancy for which I toil, I chaired a discussion today about building and enhancing organizational relationships with aboriginal communities. The speakers were Bernd Christmas who heads our aboriginal affairs practice and Clint Davis, president and CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.

I began the meeting with an explanation for why building and enhancing organizational relationships with aboriginal communities is an issue of "sustainability" which seemed necessary given that we (in North America at least) tend to equate sustainability with ecological stewardship or as a panacea for global warming.

However, according to a study (requires an access pass) by the American Management Association called Creating a Sustainable Future the goal of sustainability is:

"Ensuring that whole systems remain healthy so that people -- as individuals, societies and organizations -- improve their overall chances of well-being."

In other words, sustainability is about more than environmental stewardship. It is about social and human renewal as well as mitigating the harmful social consequences, at home and globally, of development and short-sighted economic planning. The connection between this broader interpretation of sustainability and the situation faced by aboriginal communities in North America is self-evident.

There are at least four principles for creating a sustainable enterprise that also make sense for how companies can enhance their relationships with First Nations, Inuit or Metis peoples in North America. They must:

  1. Create collaborative and dialog-based relationships with aboriginal communities
  2. Focus attention on long-term prosperity and human rights rather than short-term margins
  3. Take action on human rights, education and poverty alleviation locally and globally even if they are not related to a company's core business
  4. Commit to the renewal of natural, manufactured and human resources locally and globally

As an aside, although still apropos, Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Australia were at the time (September 2007) the only four countries not to support the adoption by the United Nations of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Just this month Canada's House of Commons voted to endorse the declaration. That's a decent step towards improving the public policy environment for encouraging the sustainable enterprise. 

Peter Kurer, the new president of UBS, is right when, in a Financial Times cover story, he says that :

“We shouldn't fool ourselves. “We can’t pretend that there has been no reputational damage. Experience says it goes away after two or three years.”

That's probably about what it takes . . . but it depends on what you do, and how others see you. To start with, "goes away" is an imperfect way to describe what has to happen. And putting a time frame on reputation recovery (Ross suggests 3.5 years is closer to the norm) without having established the company's business renewal and communications plan is like trying to describe the length of piece of string.

Critical steps include creating internal stability, institutional investor tolerance (if not confidence) a clear business and market revitalization design and a communications strategy which incorporates employee and stakeholder trust building, evident commitment to responsible conduct and plans for use of effective digital strategies (including SEO?).

One wonders if UBS is starting on positive footing. It seems some investors including Luqman Arnold, UBS’s former president, don't think Mr. Kurer is the right man for the job given his background as the bank’s former general counsel. It might just take UBS a little longer.

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