Oftentimes I’ve been disappointed, frustrated, enraged, or some other adjective by knowledge of business initiatives that are seemingly motivated by priorities, such as financial compensation or reputation, rather than factors such as social responsibility, education, personal well-being, environmental, or similar.
My point of reference is a recent article in the Wall Street Journal regarding how ‘Victoria’s Secret Rethinks the Supermodel’ in an effort to reverse a sales slump. I’m confident there are many other examples where profitability or growth are (more) important than other business decisions, but the sentiment just doesn’t sit right with me.
The Wall Street Journal goes on to state that Victoria’s Secret has ‘alienated some women and invited criticism that the brand is out of touch’, and that ‘the brand will feature a more diverse set of women than the company has used in the past’ in an effort to end a prolonged sales slump.
The problem I have with this tactic is it seems opportunistic and disingenuous. I’m curious what other strategic decisions Victoria’s Secret or other organizations have or could make to bolster their bottom line without seemingly alienating their client base. By example, the Body Shop once issued a news release announcing it’s commitment to ‘become the world’s most ethical and sustainable global business’ (Source: Carson College of Business) and focused their business model on business practices that reduce costs, engage workers (resulting in them being more productive), and generating more consumer support as a result of the company’s passion to make a positive social and environmental impact.
Other companies like the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, clothing retailer H&M, Starbucks, and American outdoor clothing company Patagonia, have outsourced their manufacturing in an endeavour to maximize profits whilst ‘earning outstanding reputations and found international success by going the extra mile to achieve ethical sourcing and manufacturing’ (Source: Trade Ready).
So, the ‘lingerie powerhouse’ is set to ‘feature women in more shapes and sizes’, in an effort to reverse a sales slump. As a strategic consultant, full-figured model, body-positive advocate, and consumer – I think Victoria’s Secret is also having a marketing and communications strategy slump that needs a reversal.
Sure, businesses are in business to make money – but for organizations looking to be more inclusive, even in an exclusive market, consider strategic initiatives that increase acceptance in the stated industry, find ways to change the perception of consumers without a glaring ‘in your face’ ‘it’s all about the bottom line’ messaging, etc.
For many organizations, some of these strategic initiatives are focused on ensuring environmentally-friendly, safe working conditions, providing excellent health insurance for all workers, optimizing quality, increasing economic transparency, or being more socially responsible.
Victoria’s Secret may not care what I think or have to say, but other organizations who work with thousands of stakeholders and generate billions of dollars in revenue every single year might. The ability to remain both profitable and set the industry standard for ethical and sustainable business practices is a shining example of industry leaders and businesses that I, as a consumer, would readily support.
So ‘How can you improve the world (and the bottom line of company’s you support)?’. Make ethics a priority in your personal and professional decision-making. Consider long-term practices as a trend toward ethical behaviour and informed decision-making.
Choose brands that support your values, and use your purchasing power (and social media savvy) to send the message that ethical business practices are important. (This is not limited to diversity and inclusivity alone; it spans the vast options and alternatives available in business practices with the hopes of ethics and innovation becoming more commonplace around the world.)
Jacqueline Biollo is a strategic consultant working with organizations that believe in the superpowers of people, possibility, and potential. She is also a full-figured model who will be walking in the Curvy Revolution as part of New York Fashion Week. If you or organizations you support are looking for strategic and innovative solutions to business problem statements (such as diversity and inclusivity advocacy, marketing and communication plans, governance training, etc.) – feel free to contact her via LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/s0ngbird/).
Photo by Country Corner Images