Over the past few years, it's been easy to dismiss "company values" as a sham created by CMO's to enhance their company's image. As we've watched billionaires accumulate more and more wealth throughout the pandemic. At the same time, the scales of global inequality slide further and further towards "bad," it's natural for people to be skeptical. When you see a brand marketed as sustainable donating a token sliver of its profit to whatever injustice has taken the media by storm that day, it's easy to roll your eyes.
But, when a company lives up to its stated values, it can meaningfully impact broader culture. Suppose people in power learn how to integrate those values into the day-to-day operations and strategic plans of the company. In that case, those company values will rapidly shift the everyday culture and the company's impact on the broader world.
Early in my career, I became a senior director and manager at a national climate advocacy nonprofit. After years of directly doing the work myself as a community organizer, I was suddenly supporting and empowering other people to do the work of stopping climate change. Many new managers find themselves in this position without much support. Beyond my dedication to advancing justice, I wanted to know how to leverage my role as a manager to better impact the workplace I now had a lot of control over.
I was curious about how to wisely wield this power as a young manager and became obsessed with learning about new ways of working. As someone who worked in the public sphere, I was fascinated with how project management and organization design could be used by workers to advance justice and equity.
Given this deep curiosity, it's no surprise that I now get to work with the best of the best alongside my August Pals. August is a values-driven company and a Certified B Corporation. When I joined our team in April 2021, I was instantly attracted to August's values -- especially its value of Public Benefit.
Here's how we describe our commitment to Public Benefit:
In today's networked world our own achievement is directly linked to the achievement of others with a shared worldview. To whatever extent possible, we will seek to share what we do and invite others to benefit from it.
Public Benefit even at the expense of profit or competitive advantage.
Our description of Public Benefit echoes the ethos of solidarity - a rising tide lifts all boats. These values were developed at our founding, and though I sometimes struggle to describe how the services and products we offer align with our values, I believe there is strong evidence for why Public Benefit is even more important in 2021 than it may have initially been in 2015.
Here are 3 reasons why I believe that August's value of Public Benefit is more critical than ever.
Consider how Public Benefit addresses the undeniable impact of the past 1.5 years on how we work. While perceptions have been challenged as to how many people truly worked remotely during the pandemic, there is solid evidence that workers desire more flexibility in how they work. As workplaces, big and small, adjust to the hybrid work environment, many small businesses and under-resourced public entities like local governments and nonprofits rely on free or public information to support workers. Whether a small business or nonprofit organization, smaller budgets can make it tough to prioritize R+D. The impacts of disinvestment in navigating the hybrid workplace can cost these organizations quality talent and lower engagement overall.
This is one of the reasons why August is excited to offer individual access to our Hybrid Work Playbook and public access to our Google Drive - full of valuable tools to unlock Hybrid Ways of Working. In service of our dedication to Public Benefit - we are also working on a product for launch in 2022 that will be more accessible for individuals, rather than larger corporate clients. Keep an eye out for that announcement in early 2022!
In addition to the rapidly changing workplace due to Covid-19, I personally value August's commitment to public benefit in light of the systemic degradation of belief and value in public institutions in the United States. That ethos of solidarity I referenced before reminds me of why I came to August: to better understand how to support positive change in the public sector. A commitment to Public Benefit is partially behind having a portion of our clients focused in the Civic sector, such as the City of New York, Planned Parenthood, and Sierra Club. The other reason for having such strong dedication to our civic sector is related to our value: joy! Our team members genuinely enjoy supporting these organizations.
The final reason why Public Benefit is more important than ever is straightforward: Public Benefit is a way to increase equity. Building a more equitable world has never felt more urgent. As a company committed to equity and inclusion, Public Benefit is just one way we integrate E+I into the foundation of our day-to-day operations. While many companies hesitate to be transparent, we have witnessed that embracing the spirit of Public Benefit can lead to a foundational shift in cultivating equity and inclusion.
In what ways are your company values relevant today? What impact do you see of those values in the broader world? The next time you revisit your company's mission and purpose, consider how your company values echo in your day-to-day operations and your broader vision. These values are explicitly connected to organizations' ability to reach their mission and vision, and how we organize around them matters.