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Don’t Just Ask “How Can We Help?” Ask These Questions Instead.

March 30, 2020
By John Armato, Bob Axelrod, Josh Rogers, Leela Stake and Paul Vosloo

Many organizations are asking “What should we do to help in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis?” One of my most fundamental beliefs about the creative process is that a question is what an idea looks like just before it’s an idea. So, with input from my smart FleishmanHillard colleagues Bob Axelrod, Josh Rogers, Leela Stake, Paul Vosloo and Brian West, here are 10 prompts anyone from a small business to a global corporation can use to spark ideas that respond to the pandemic in a way that’s relevant to the need and authentic to the organization.

1) WHY ARE YOU HERE? — Start with your organization’s mission, vision, and values statements. What do they inherently guide you to do?

2) WHAT DO YOU HAVE? — What infrastructure does your organization have and does any of it lend itself to being of particular use to others right now? Warehousing? fleet/transportation/logistics? Sales force? Manufacturing? Office space? Parking lots? Communications platforms?

3) WHAT DO YOUR PEOPLE CARE ABOUT? — What is important to your employees right now? How/where do they want you to make a difference? What are they eager to do themselves?

4) WHO CAN YOU ENLIST? — Beyond employees, what relationships and stakeholders does your organization have that can be put to use? Supply chain? Business partners? Customers? Volunteers? Fans? How can you rally them to do something bigger than you can do on your own?

5) WHO CAN GUIDE YOU? — Conversely, what needs might those same stakeholders have of your organization? Ask your existing philanthropy partners in particular (grantees, volunteer organizations) how you can be a nimble and true partner at this time.

6) IS THE NEED INSIDE? — Now look at those same audiences and ask not only what can each do, but also what might each need? Is there a pain point in your own landscape that you can or should address?

7) WHERE DO YOU INTERSECT WITH HEALTHCARE RELIEF? — This is a healthcare crisis, so where is the most logical connection for your organization within the healthcare system? We’re all thinking about doctors and nurses right now. But hospitals have other workers keeping the doors open: security staff, maintenance and janitorial, cafeteria operations, etc. Is your organization in a position to be uniquely useful or relevant to one of those segments?

8) WHERE DO YOU INTERSECT WITH ECONOMIC RELIEF? — This is an economic crisis. So, the first idea people typically turn to is financial: Who can your organization give money to for emergency relief? It’s a good start, but look for other ways to frame financial need and opportunity to help:

  • What can your organization buy to help right now?
  • How can your organization invest in people to ensure they thrive when this is over?
  • How can your organization help those out of work earn money right now?
  • Are there debts your organization can forgive among suppliers or others who are hurting?
  • Can your organization loan people funds to bridge temporary needs?

9) WHO IS HURTING BEYOND THE OBVIOUS? – First responders and patients are the most critical audiences right now, but what if your organization isn’t well suited to help them in particular? Who else is hurting but is being overlooked during the crisis that may be especially relevant to your organization?

10) WHERE ARE YOU IN THE HIERARCHY OF NEEDS? WHERE IS THE CRISIS IN ITS PROGRESSION? — Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Is your organization particularly well suited to help at one tier or another? Is your best role at the bottom immediately or somewhere higher over time? Today the most urgent needs are flattening the curve, protecting healthcare workers, and providing relief for basic needs. But right on the heels of that is economic survival for individuals and business continuity for all kinds of enterprises. Next will be recovery and rebuilding. Can your organization vary its response in tandem with the progression of the crisis itself?


FleishmanHillard Named Five-Time Finalist at SABRE Awards North America 2020

March 26, 2020

ST. LOUIS, March 26, 2020 — FleishmanHillard has been named a finalist in five categories at the SABRE Awards North America 2020, presented by PRovoke Media. The global public relations and marketing agency earned shortlist nominations for PR Agency Employee Program and for work on behalf of clients, The Hershey Company, Philips with OneVoiceConnect, Emerson and Cisco.

The SABRE Awards program rewards campaigns that demonstrate notable success in brand credibility and engagement. Each entry is evaluated by a jury of industry leaders and shortlisted campaigns are hand-picked from more than 2,000 entries.

  • FleishmanHillard, “FH Perspectives” (Silver SABRE Awards, PR Agency Employee Program)
  • Cisco, “Internet for the Future” (Technology: Hardware)
  • Emerson “Developing Emerson’s Innovators of Tomorrow by Inspiring a Lifelong Love of STEM” with DDB and Digitas (Chemical & Industrials)
  • Philips with OneVoiceConnect, “Succeeding by Doing Good: There’s Always a Way to Make Life Better” with an association of Omnicom agencies (Corporate Social Responsibility)
  • The Hershey Company, “Reese’s Lovers” with Anomaly (Consumer Marketing, New Product)

Winners were originally scheduled to be announced at an awards dinner in New York City on May 5; however, the ceremony has been canceled due to the coronavirus. PRovoke Media is exploring other options for an awards dinner, including a virtual ceremony. More information will be announced at a later date here.

View the complete list of finalists on Provoke Media.


Navigating the COVID-19 Communications Challenge Webinar

March 25, 2020

When: March 31, 2020, 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. HKT/SGT

Register here for webinar

Rachel Catanach

The Asia-Pacific Association of Communication Directors (APACD) will host an interactive webinar to discuss the communications challenges related to the global coronavirus pandemic. Attendees will gain a better understanding of key communications priorities and evolving best practices to navigate the impact of COVID-19.

Moderated by PRovoke editor-in-chief Arun Sudhaman, the webinar will feature APACD board members, as well as Rachel Catanach, president, FleishmanHillard Greater China. Catanach will join fellow industry COVID-19 response and counsel leaders Lydia Lee, president, Weber Shandwick China and Adrian Warr, CEO, Edelman Hong Kong and Taiwan to discuss best practices for communicating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learn more about the event here.


The Power of Sport Can Move the World Even in the Dark Times

By Suki Zhao

2020 was supposed to be a big year for sports. With the coming of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, and the two-year countdown to the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, the mass sports market in Asia was developing at a particularly rapid pace. But the outbreak of COVID-19 delivered a hard blow to this expanding market, and that hit is now being felt around the world as the global sports industry experiences firsthand the impact of the virus.

However, as China becomes the first to shift to the recovery phase, we see that COVID-19 has also propelled the local sports industry to new levels of innovation, cultivating what may be a new era in sport and signaling what could come next for the rest of the world.

While there is much that remains unknown about whether China’s experience with the novel coronavirus will be replicated in other countries, there are also good learnings that will be universal and inspiring to sports business leaders and marketers today.

1. Home fitness as the new lifestyle in response to “social distancing”

In the midst of China’s months-long quarantine, home fitness has become a social phenomenon. Fitness applications and online fitness content platforms grew incrementally. The popular social platform Sina Weibo released a number of social topics such as “home fitness plan” and “home fitness sports award”, encouraging people to do sports with their families and share home sport videos. Led by Olympic champions, celebrities and fitness enthusiasts, the campaign created a trend in China and these topics achieved a total reach of more than 2 billion on Weibo. Keep, a popular fitness APP, partnered with consumer brands to launch a livestream training course, reaching a cumulative audience of more than 50 million people.

We also saw home fitness break through to the front lines of the COVID-19 response, as patients and medical staff in temporary hospitals embraced Chinese ‘square dancing,’ a popular new exercise promoting health in a relaxed and fun environment, under safe protection.

2. An explosion of online sports content consumption

Also due to the quarantine, both the number of daily active internet users and average time spent daily online reached record highs. Inspired by this increase in online consumption, traditional sports enterprises in China have actively embraced digital solutions to reach their audiences. As a result, China has seen an uptick in online sports engagement and spend – both by the younger generation and the super-aging population.

PP Sports released online fitness programs sharing content from online and offline fitness institutions, supporting athletes and merchants with home fitness livestreaming. Sina Sports focused on fans engagement, inviting popular players from its brand competition 3×3 Golden League to broadcast online. Sina Sports also joined hundreds of ski resorts, brands and opinion leaders to produce promotional content related to winter sports and the Beijing 2022 Games.

E-sports also grew significantly in popularity during this time, lighting a spark across the online sports and entertainment industry resulting in increases in video streaming, online gaming and in-game spending. Console game sales also surged, despite manufacturing and delivery limitations.

3. Sporting goods and apparel brands turn to “Social Commerce”

To make up for losses in bricks-and-mortar sales, sporting goods and apparel retailers have recalibrated their efforts around a retail strategy that digitizes their marketing operations around e-commerce solutions. In addition to focusing on efforts to boost sales via traditional e-commerce channels like Alibaba-owned Taobao Live, sports retailers are stepping up their game within social media livestreams, turning them into opportunities for e-commerce traffic and sales.

This is supported by innovations from social media platforms. For example, Tencent launched a live audio and video broadcasting tool for WeChat Official Account (OA), leveraging its WeChat fanbases, to drive e-commerce sales. Without having to download the App, consumers can just click the mini-program in the brand’s official WeChat OA to push subscription and watch. ByteDance’s Douyin (known as TikTok globally) launched the “Cloud Shopping” project, providing one billion live streaming views from the platform and zero cost for brands to insert its shopping cart function. The e-commerce feature in the app also allows users to participate in the challenge and buy products related to sponsored brands.

Among the new users of these social e-commerce apps, the proportion of the middle-aged and elderly increased the most and users from lower-tier cities also expanded greatly.

The impact of COVID-19 on the global sports industry as a whole is as yet unknown, but this crisis also puts forward a new direction for sports brands and business, ultimately spurring the sports economy to innovate further and faster.

A month ago, FleishmanHillard client TOKYO SKYTREE sent good vibes to Wuhan, China and the Chinese people via a special lighting display from the world’s highest broadcasting tower, with the blue light symbolizing “hope the epidemic will end soon” and the red light to cheer for China. People in China appreciate this friendship with Japan. I hope to pass on this blessing and support.

Writing this from home and sending some positive vibes #StayInspired.


From CSR to PSR: Lessons from the Pandemic

March 24, 2020
By Bob Axelrod

I have asthma — one of the underlying conditions that elevates the health risks of COVID-19. And my son is preparing to be a physician assistant. So, the challenges the world faces today are quite personal to me.

For decades, I’ve helped companies become better corporate citizens — and, as a result, improved their businesses and reputations. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), a term coined more than three generations ago by American economist Howard Bowen, is now baked into strategic decision-making for many corporations. Today, together with countless others around the world, I depend on individuals to bring a similar thoughtful and responsible approach to daily life.

If we glean nothing else from our current life-altering circumstances, let us agree that our institutions can only do so much. And this extends far beyond responding in the moment to a highly visible crisis.

While we’ve made incremental progress, real change remains elusive on key environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. No country is on track to achieve all 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the 2030 target. Even the best performers fall well short on many critical concerns. And, of course, today’s pandemic looms large going forward.

If governments, the private sector, NGOs and other institutions that endorse the SDGs aren’t getting the job done, then who will?

Sometimes it takes an existential threat to illuminate a core truth.

So much is up to you and me.

To lessen the devastation of our present situation and make long-term progress on many other fronts, we need to usher in a new era of PSR — personal social responsibility.  

Unlike Bowen, I haven’t coined a new term. PSR has been the subject of books, Tedx presentations and even research studies. But the concept itself has yet to go mainstream in the same way as CSR.

So, what is PSR and how can we best practice it? It’s different than altruism, which the Merriam Webster Dictionary defines as “unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others.” Rather, PSR is more akin to CSR. Companies act responsibly not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it’s good for business. The key words here are “act responsibly.” PSR isn’t about belief, it’s about action. If each and every one of us acted within our own PSR framework, the world would be a lot better off and so would we as individuals.

We can learn a lot from company CSR efforts. The most obvious and timely example is the massive number of corporations that have done right by their employees and instituted work-from-home policies to avoid spreading the coronavirus before governments began mandating shelter-in-place. It’s common sense that when your job sends you home for something like this, you should also heed the warnings of health and government officials to avoid large, densely packed gatherings. As crowded bars and beaches have recently illustrated, a lot of people didn’t accept that message. Many of them and their friends and families, and perhaps even you and I, will suffer unnecessarily as a result.

The flipside of this example are the people who not only took proper precautions, but also went out of their way to help others — checking in on neighbors and delivering food and essential supplies to those who couldn’t get out. And how about our frontline healthcare workers!

Being proficient at PSR needn’t be complicated. Small acts of personal responsibility undertaken by billions of people add up to real change. Tweaking one’s own lifestyle to change consumption habits, buying products that have smaller social and environmental footprints, giving back to our communities and, yes, social distancing — these simple acts benefit us all.

But PSR does take some forethought and planning. Otherwise, we run the risk of sporadic, rather than deliberate, ongoing action. Let’s take a page from formal CSR platforms to craft our PSR strategies. Companies have plans, policies, goals and activities in place to deliver on their CSR commitments. We expect it of them. Why not hold ourselves to the same high standard?

So, stay home as much as possible during these challenging times and take to heart the wisdom of Mahatma Gandhi:

“The future depends on what you do today.”


Keeping Creativity Alive

By Jacob Porpossian

“These sure are interesting times!” That was the common phrase used by friends and colleagues during our first FH-WFH (Work From Home) week. And honestly, how can you disagree? It was a whirlwind as we all started to grasp and understand what our new reality not only meant for our clients but also how we work together as a team. As the Creative lead for FleishmanHillard in New York, and a very social creature by nature, I found myself constantly reaching out to family, friends and colleagues throughout the week, looking for inspiration to continue to spark our collaborative approach to creative and creativity during this time.

As humans, we have a tendency to get creative and innovate when put under pressure and last week was no different. Although the world is in a turbulent place at the moment, one can argue that this is also a moment in time where we are also experiencing a surge of creativity. Maybe it’s boredom, the newfound abundance of time or in some cases parents having to keep their kids entertained, but people all over the world are getting creative in how they operate in their homes and sharing it with us online. Brands are no different. We have seen many brands get creative about how they can help in a meaningful way during this time too.

So, you might be asking yourself, “How can I keep up my creative fire in this current landscape?” Well, with being only one week in, here are just some of the ways you can keep your creativity on point during this time of self-isolation:

1. Explore:

Virtually, of course. Make sure you take some time to dive into the discover capabilities of social platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok. This will give you a first-hand look at the creativity taking place at a grassroots level all over the world. It will make you sing, dance and sometimes even LOL. It’s a great way to keep your pulse on culture, it might spark an idea or shift your mindset to think differently.

2. Meet (Virtual) Face to (Virtual) Face:

If you haven’t been doing so already, take advantage of all the video calling and conferencing features to get some virtual face-to-face interaction. It’s so important for our (at least my) mental health but also critical for fueling our creativity when brainstorming.

If you are planning on hosting a brainstorm, make sure you have the following:

  1. Have a plan. If you are facilitating the brainstorm session, then it’s important to have an action plan to guide all the participants to contribute to the best of their virtual ability.
  2. A brief is STILL super important. It will help focus the discussion for everyone and ensure the objective is crystal clear.
  3. Demand focus. Yes, demand. Working virtually also means that there can be a lot of distractions. Instruct participants to turn on video sharing and refrain from multitasking.
  4. Try new tools. Try to utilize different video conference tools and find which one works best for you. Also, don’t forget to use programs like PowerPoint, Google docs or even fun cue cards to drive and spark the ideation session.

Beyond brainstorms, virtually connecting also allows you to speak to friends that you potentially didn’t get a chance to regularly. It’s always easy to get caught up in our busy lives, but now it’s a great way to get a different perspective.

3. Fuel your creativity

Take on a new creative challenge or maybe invest in one that you couldn’t make enough time for before. Many brands are providing free online activities. Museums and galleries are providing virtual tours, guitar companies are offering free guitar lessons and more! You can also take a break and dive into a fictional world through the book that you just haven’t had a chance to start in a pre-COVID world. Having your brain explore these different areas will only boost your creativity.

4. We are all in this together

At the end of it all, just remember — we are all in this together. We are all navigating this new reality at the same time. So, take the time to explore, connect and re-fuel. It’s only going to help you navigate our new normal while still keeping your creative fire burning bright!


How Are You Supporting Your Employees Who Are Still Going into Work?

By Josh Rogers

As the world attempts to slow the spread of COVID-19, businesses everywhere have instructed employees (who can) to do their jobs from home. For workers in manufacturing plants, distribution facilities, call centers, service depots and retail locations, this isn’t an option. If these operations have been able to continue in your company, it’s critical that the employees performing these activities are informed, engaged and recognized as they work through the pandemic – especially if their colleagues in other parts of the business are able to work from home. Do these six things to ensure the people who are driving your business forward on the front lines feel supported by their leaders and co-workers.

Mobilize your executives in thanking the teams who are still working. If your facilities have video capabilities, send a video in which each of your senior leaders shares a personal word of thanks to the frontline heroes keeping operations moving – calling out notable achievements, acknowledging workers’ personal commitment and sacrifices, and providing encouragement – as they continue enabling you to serve the customers who depend on you. Don’t forget subtitles and translations. If video isn’t viable, capture these sentiments in written format and share on digital signs or via your managers.

Activate supervisors. Your people managers are the key to reaching frontline workers. And the manager-as-communicator role never has been more important. Provide supervisors with resources to communicate why their teams are essential to business continuity, along with regular updates on the state of the business/team/facility. Underscore with supervisors the importance of listening; being a conduit for their teams’ questions, concerns and suggestions; and recognizing team wins and successes.

Share wins to share hope. As your teams in other parts of the world come back online and their ways of life begin to normalize, report what you’re hearing from them to bolster teams working in places where the curve has yet to flatten. Better yet, enlist your leaders from these recovering locations to personally share with the rest of the company their first-hand accounts of weathering the worst of the outbreak. Reassuring video messages and photos of local teams getting back to business as usual can help boost morale in geographies where conditions remain critical.

Thank them often and meaningfully. This team is rallying for you. Rally for them. Feed them – frequently – if you can do it in a safe and healthy way (individually packaged meals distributed with appropriate social distance). In the process, you can support local restaurants who need the business. You can also send a letter from your CEO to these employees’ homes, thanking them and their families for their efforts to keep your business moving forward and your customers’ needs met.

Ask everyone else to thank them too. If video is an option at these facilities, issue a call for selfies in which employees from other parts of the business hold up a sign featuring a message of thanks to those who are still on the front lines; share a supercut with employees worldwide. You can also remind these workers you value them every day by creating banners emblazoned with a message of thanks from employees everywhere. Display the banners prominently in locations where people are still working.

Take good care of them. Do everything in your power to give your employees a safe and healthy environment to work in. Empower them to speak up if they identify potential health and safety risks. Address their concerns and let them know the precautions you’re taking to protect them.


FleishmanHillard’s Emily Graham Selected for Crain’s New York Business’ 40 Under 40 2020 List

March 23, 2020

ST. LOUIS, March 23, 2020 — FleishmanHillard’s Emily Graham has been named to the Crain’s New York Business 40 Under 40 2020 list. Presented by Crain’s New York Business, this award recognizes the most accomplished New York City-based business professionals under the age of 40.

Emily Graham

Graham co-leads the global public relations and marketing agency’s Financial and Professional Services sector in the Americas. She also co-chairs FleishmanHillard’s global Diversity & Inclusion initiative and FH Perspectives programming. Additionally, Graham utilizes her wide range of experience as a member of The Cabinet, the agency’s senior-most leadership team tasked with developing and leading firm-wide strategic priorities.

As a proven expert in developing and implementing integrated communications strategies, Graham oversees a Fortune 500 client account spanning across several regions. She creates and executes long-term corporate positioning programs for companies and their leaders.

Graham is also an active board member of Dress for Success New York chapter, a nonprofit organization that provides support, professional attire and development tools to help women achieve economic independence.

View Graham’s profile and the other honorees named to this year’s Crain’s New York Business 40 Under 40 list here.


Lest We Forget: Learning the Lessons from the COVID-19 Crisis

March 20, 2020
By Brian West

While it may be too soon to talk about recovery, we will return to Business As Usual (BAU) from COVID-19, whatever form that BAU may take. So it is the right time to be capturing the lessons learned from this unprecedented global event for the next time we are faced with a crisis.

Every company has a Business Continuity Plan (BCP), right?  Perhaps not. Research suggests that up to a third of companies globally still don’t have a BCP. For those that do have them, they would take reference and tell everyone – staff, customers, suppliers – that they have a specific response to the anticipated scenario around infectious diseases and how to keep them safe and the business going.

A strong BCP would specifically rule out a management team physically coming together to meet and agree the company’s response to COVID-19, instead opting for virtual meetings and decision-making. For those strong-minded teams that insist on meeting in person, the consequences can often lead to even slower and ineffective responses.

In one actual case of this happening, the President of a large organisation was admitted to the local infectious diseases ward with a high temperature the day after meeting his team. The management, while waiting on the results of the President’s tests, had to self-isolate too. In the end, the tests were negative, and a bad curry was named as the culprit. The lesson was learned, but almost the hard way.

While BCPs focus on keeping a business running or getting back up and running again after an incident, even the best BCP does not concern itself with the important art of reputation management.

Yet again, surveys show that between 30% and 50% of companies globally do not have even the most basic Crisis Communication Playbook. They are totally unprepared.

Of those that do have Playbooks, research tells us that only a third run drills to simulate potential crises and often these simulations are box-ticking exercises rather than a real test of management’s ability to respond and lead in a crisis. On-the-job learning can be a real career-defining challenge!

Now is the time to capture the lessons from COVID-19 and build that BCP, that Crisis Communication Playbook and commit to running simulations around other highly probable crises, such as a cyber breach. A modern Crisis Communication Playbook is also built around the power and opportunity offered by technology and social media.

It was recently suggested to a global manufacturing company that the CEO go on video to talk to the workforce, to offer support, compassion and, more importantly, confidence that the company would come through the situation, while prioritising the health and safety of their staff. This would add to the power and authenticity of the company’s commitment and message.

Two members of the management sniffed that their factory floor workers don’t have access to computers, so we needed to stay with emails, notices and posters for the noticeboard. They added that their sales representatives are always on-the-road and are infrequently in the office.

The modern-day obvious response is that everyone has a mobile phone, with WhatsApp/WeChat/Telegram/Yammer and many other platforms offering the opportunity to reach all employees in real-time in various ways, including by video.

In other types of crises (earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters) these technologies can allow companies to account for staff. As a side note, even in poor areas of regions in Africa, where people are lacking basic services and are malnourished, they still have mobile phones. People march to their own beat.

Everyone is on social media and accustomed to consuming visual information, so the challenge for companies is to use infographics around the issue and videos of the company leaders talking about it. This is a far more powerful way of management teams presenting themselves as being authentic in their care for staff and their families.

The COVID-19 issue demanded that companies focus on internal communications, internal communications, internal communications – and only then other stakeholders. In times of fear and uncertainty, communicate regularly but not always from the CEO – cascading communications through team supervisors remains very powerful.

Another key learning is to centralise decision-making on policies and outgoing communication and enforce it – you can’t have managers telling their staff in their office/geography that they can do something different to company-wide policy (such as travel for business when the rest of the company is not).

Employees will have lots of questions and one central body needs to be reviewing and answering them – for all company employees to see and understand.  Listening also remains a critical skill to understanding the motivation, worries and agendas of your key stakeholders.

The final lesson is that while people crave BAU and want to return to work, we cannot become complacent. We are seeing in parts of Asia already, even though the crisis is not over, that there is a second wave underway (imported cases), and who can rule out a third wave?

If people are to return to their communities soon – their work community and their social community – both business and society need to be alert, responsive and precise now. Nobody wants the reputation of having done too little when it truly mattered.


World Water Day: Three Ways Companies Can Take a Stand

March 19, 2020
By Judith Rowland

As much of the world woke up to the news that COVID-19 was a global pandemic, I was just wrapping up a week of visiting water programs throughout the northern half of Mozambique. It’s an experience that makes you realize two things: How we in the developed world tend to take this precious resource almost totally for granted; and what an intimate relationship there is between water and the global economy.

That relationship is, of course, no secret. Great global cities throughout history have emerged on the shores of oceans, lakes and rivers, and the control of waterways was a determining factor in the trajectory of the colonial powers. Now urbanization, climate change and other factors are bringing this important global resource under threat.

As we look to counter that threat, consider this: 19% of water withdrawals come from industry. That means the private sector has a major role to play in conserving water resources and achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 – a global commitment to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. By taking a stand on three critical fronts, corporations can reduce water-related financial losses while conserving water supplies for future generations.

Measure and disclose water usage

CDP, an organization supported by 500+ investors who represent more than $57 trillion in assets, reports that in 2018 alone, water-related financial losses within the private sector reached $36 billion. Operational or supply chain disruptions cost some companies up to $200 million annually. Measuring and monitoring your brand’s water risk is an essential step toward eliminating those losses.

Many companies understand that water usage is a material topic for them because it reflects and influences significant economic, environmental and social impacts of their business operations. That’s why water disclosure is featured so prominently in sustainability reports. Water isn’t an esoteric environmental issue; it can influence your company’s bottom line and your reputation among stakeholders.

Investors deserve to understand the full spectrum of business and market risks facing the companies in which they invest. Water must be part of this risk analysis. Disclosure creates greater transparency, which in turn improves accountability and coordination between stakeholders.

Identify opportunities to reduce water usage

Growing awareness of water risks increases the urgency of reducing water usage, particularly in high-stress areas. Disclosure is an important first step, but companies are learning that simply completing a water risk assessment won’t achieve the reputational benefits of being a leader in water conservation. As more brands complete those assessments, sustainability leaders are finding new ways to stand out from their peers, including the establishment of ambitious water reduction goals.

For these goals to be meaningful, however, companies must hold themselves accountable for the targets they establish. CDP reports that, while the number of companies who have set water reduction targets has nearly doubled since 2015, almost 50% more corporations now report higher water withdrawals. More and more investors and other stakeholders are noticing this kind of discrepancy and punishing companies for it. Taking a stand for accountability can help you maintain your leadership and their good will.

Consider water as part of your corporate giving strategy

Benjamin Franklin once said, “when the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.” And I can assure you that, in Mozambique, people know the truth of those words. As I watched school children take turns happily pumping water for each other and sipping out of shared cups, I couldn’t help but appreciate the full ecosystem of water and the way it intersects the environment and human development.

As our world practices social distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19, I further reflected on the range of other diseases my new friends in Mozambique may have been exposed to prior to the dedication of these wells. Waterborne illnesses like diarrhea, dysentery, guinea worm, river blindness and others continue to have devastating consequences on the developing world. Pairing your organizations’ water risk reduction strategy with financial gifts to support clean drinking water programs is another important way your company can take a stand. And it can help create an even more compelling narrative to support your company’s commitment to SDG 6.