The world has changed in the last three months for all of us.
The tragic events in Ukraine have caused huge suffering for millions and stunned the world. They have also challenged the zero carbon agenda with a renewed focus on energy security, turbo-charged a cost of living crisis and created deep anxiety and stress for many individuals after the traumas of COVID-19.
In this environment, what organisations stand for and say has become more important than ever. Most recently for Hudson Sandler, this meant stopping our Russia business within 24 hours of the invasion of Ukraine and closing our Moscow office, a practice we had carefully built over fifteen years. Our long-standing pro-bono support of ‘Peace One Day’, established to institutionalise the United Nations Peace Day, has never been more relevant.
These current crises are raising fundamental challenges for companies across the planet and are accompanied by a deepening erosion of trust by society in the institutions that govern us and the organisations that serve and employ us. Whether companies are grappling with a new definition of value in the face of rising tax and inflation, recognising the need to build more inclusive organisations, or struggling to genuinely decarbonise their operations, the current economic, environmental and geopolitical headwinds are forcing companies to change the ways they behave and engage and to consider their role in society. In short to address why the exist and what they contribute – in short, their corporate purpose.
Stakeholders – from policymakers to regulators, employees to suppliers, customers to communities – don’t want hear organisations express an opinion on every issue of the day, but they do expect to know where they stand on the big issues fundamental to the long-term success and development of society. And they are looking for credibility – a purpose or position demonstrated through every action and interaction a company makes.
Our clients look to us to help navigate this environment. To work with their stakeholders to understand what their businesses really stand for and to create compelling, honest articulations of their purpose. And then to demonstrate how they are living up to their promises. This is why the work of our HS Sustain practice is now vital to all of our clients – it puts robust sustainability and ESG strategies at the heart of all our work across capital market communications, brand campaigns and corporate reputation.
As a result, today HS Sustain constitutes the golden thread running through everything we do. Our work includes detailed research into potential environmental and social risks and opportunities. We advise on long-term goal setting, establishing milestones and roadmaps, and alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. And of course as a strategic communications consultancy, we are adept at targeting audiences and demonstrating our clients’ environmental and social stewardship. We are winning mandates across most sectors and internationally, often against the big four accounting firms where we offer ‘heavy lift’ sustainability and ESG support at a value they cannot match and through the prism of reputation, in line with our heritage.
When I look back on the last 30+ years of Hudson Sandler’s history, I realise how much business has changed. For every company addressing its reputation or moving towards an IPO, shareholder value is no longer the driving imperative. Contribution to an entire value chain and to society as a whole is now the critical focus. And I, for one, think that makes for better companies and better communities. So, while the world struggles to address the very real problems caused by conflict, economic pressure and environmental damage, I am cautiously hopeful that business will be part of the solution.