Monday, March 21, 2022

Bombing Your Own Business and Values Statements

Most businesses of significance today publish a values statement.  The French department store Leroy Merlin, as one would expect from a company with 22,000 employees, published their latest on January 15, 2020.  Their value statement follows, "We share six values ​​that we embody on a daily basis: trust, respect, autonomy, commitment, proximity and audacity.  More than words...they define who we are."

Leroy Merlin After Missile Attack
I would suggest that actions, rather than words are what truly defines an organization.  I read on Forbes.com today that Leroy Merlin "became the first company in the world to finance the bombing of its own stores [in Ukraine]." How?  They had refused to stop operating in Russia even when their competitors withdrew in protest against the invasion of the Ukraine.  It seems Leroy Merlin see the war and international sanctions as a growth and money making opportunity for themselves in Russia. Their strategy now helps fund Russia's unconscionable war against the Ukraine. Hoping not to lose any money making opportunities, Leroy Merlin also continues to operate in the Ukraine.  They've got both sides covered. 

One of many problems with Leroy Merlin's strategy, as we have learned, is that Russia is not very discriminating when it comes to launching missiles and shooting things.  They fired missiles into one of Leroy Merlin's stores in the Ukraine killing an employee. 

How is Leroy Merlin's executive team going to explain their strategy to their employees now?  How can they publish their values statement and face their employees, customers and investors with any sincerity?  The New York Times reports Leroy Merlin's own Ukrainian employees are now protesting against their continued operations in Russia.  The optics are terrible and so are the decisions Leroy Merlin need to make.

In today's transparent world, businesses should understand that the "gaze of history," the "public swarm," and activist investors will always be weighing your words against your actions.  I propose that companies should take more time thinking about their "values statements" before posting them.  It should be far more than just a marketing activity - it should be a line in the sand their company is willing to defend.
Every Western company is now wondering how exposed it is to political risk. ~Bloomberg
If you want to read more on this topic I wrote the article Business Isn't Always about Business, last week that reflects more on these and other challenges.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.