My Recap of an Ever-changing Reputation VUCA Landscape

There is constant research in the VUCA reputation field with some every interesting results coming forth for Reputation and Crisis Managers alike.

What I advise clients is to determine the golden thread i.e. the patterns and messages these research results reveal.

It is interesting to read what VUCA holds for Crisis Managers as depicted in this article: What VUCA Really Means for You” by Nathan Bennett and G. James Lemoine  from the January–February 2014 Issue of the Harvard Business Review;  in which they warn against using VUCA as a crutch, a way to throw off the hard work of strategy and planning—after all, you can’t prepare for a VUCA world, right?

The term VUCA is, short for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.

In the guide to identifying, getting ready for, and responding to VUCA events they have this to recommend about Uncertainty. “Invest in Information. Collect, Interpret and share it.

So, this is exactly what I am doing with my latest roundup that adds value to this conversation:

Research Results

Research Study 1: Disruptive technology will Impact Reputation in the Future.

Deloitte’s 2018 CEO and board risk survey explored leaders’ risk posture and their level of readiness across these four strategic risk areas—brand and reputation, culture, cyber, and extended enterprise. They found that 400 CEOs and boards agree that threats are on the horizon, but they are not managing them in a strategic way nor are they prioritizing the right investments needed to identify, respond to, and mitigate these risks.

Key highlights from the survey:

  •  Disruptive technologies and cyber threats ranked as the top risks
  • Leaders are prioritizing investments in cybersecurity and technology acquisitions while under investing in culture and brand and reputation
  • While CEOs and boards are risk-aware, they are not risk-prepared
  • And as the risk interconnections deepen, leaders are tackling strategic risks in silos

I wrote about this observation in some of my blog posts. In one leading telecommunications company I found that the person responsible for corporate affairs did not serve on the Risk Committee which resulted in her responding to incidents post-event.

Research Study 2: Purpose Drives Reputation.

In my workshops I always ask at some stage – What is the Vision, Mission and Values of the company – The DNA?

Often participants differ of opinion about this. Many cannot recite nor explain the sense of purpose of the organization.

Now a survey has highlighted the importance of this in building reputation. The 2018 Porter Novelli/Cone Purpose Premium Index survey found that a company’s sense of purpose plays a major role in its overall reputation,as much as 13 percent of the total, and that purpose is one of the three key dimensions of corporate reputation.

While that’s less than the weight given to quality(65 percent) and vision (18 percent), the study’s authors stress its importance, saying that “when it comes to diligently building a reputation, every single point matters.”  The study uncovered a strong link between a company’s purpose score and its overall reputational rank.

Survey respondents also listed the attributes of a company’s sense of purpose that they found important. Corporate responsibility (86 percent) was their first choice, closely followed by caring (85 percent), advocating for issues (81 percent), protecting the environment (79 percent) and giving back to important causes (73 percent).

Research Study 3: Brands with legitimate sustainability claims do better.

The latest Nielsen report “How and Why Sustainability is Gaining Momentum with Customers.“finds that regardless of product category, brands with legitimate sustainability claims do better. For the purposes of this report, Nielsen chose to study purchases of three of the most common fast-moving consumer goods,coffee, chocolate and bath products, because of their differences from each other. What they found was that products with sustainability claims generally outperformed the growth rate of total products in their respective categories.

According to the Nielsen report, “Brands that are able to strategically connect (sustainability) to actual behavior are in a good place to capitalize on increased consumer expectation and demand.” The report adds, that”Sustainability claims on packaging must also reflect how a company operates inside and out.”

In other words, customers want sustainable products from sustainable companies. This includes everything from labor practices to the environmental impact of their production.

Report Release: Reporting ESG Risks – 77 Industry-Specific Reporting Standards.

The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) has launched its 77 industry-specific reporting standards for companies to disclose material ESG risks. SASB standards focus on financially material issues because its mission is to help businesses around the world report on the sustainability topics that matter most to their investors.

Although there is much environmental, social, governance (ESG) and sustainability information disclosed publicly, often it can be difficult to identify and assess which information is most useful for making financially-related decisions.

The SASB identifies financially material issues, which are the issues that are reasonably likely to impact the financial condition or operating performance of a company and therefore are most important to investors.

Sustainability accounting reflects the management of a corporation’s environmental and social impacts arising from production of goods and services,as well as its management of the environmental and social capitals necessary to create long-term value.

It also includes the impacts that sustainability challenges have on innovation, business models, corporate governance, reputation and vice versa.

Five Broad Sustainability Dimensions

The SASB’s sustainability topics are organized under five broad sustainability dimensions: 

  1. Environment. This dimension includes environmental impacts, either through the use of nonrenewable, natural resources as inputs to the factors of production or through harmful releases into the environment that may result in impacts to the company’s financial condition or operating performance.
  2. Social Capital. This dimension relates to the expectation that a business will contribute to society in return for a social license to operate. It addresses the management of relationships with key outside parties, such as customers, local communities, the public, and the government. It includes issues related to human rights, protection of vulnerable groups, local economic development, access to and quality of products and services, affordability, responsible business practices in marketing, and customer privacy.
  3. Human Capital. This dimension addresses the management of a company’s human resources (employees and individual contractors) as key assets to delivering long-term value. It includes issues that affect the productivity of employees, management of labor relations, and management of the health and safety of employees and the ability to create a safety culture.
  4. Business Model and Innovation. This dimension addresses the integration of environmental, human, and social issues in a company’s value-creation process, including resource recovery and other innovations in the production process; as well as in product innovation, including efficiency and responsibility in the design, use phase, and disposal of products.
  5. Leadership and Governance. This dimension involves the management of issues that are inherent to the business model or common practice in the industry and that are in potential conflict with the interest of broader stakeholder groups, and therefore create a potential liability or a limitation or removal of a license to operate. This includes regulatory compliance, risk management, safety management, supply-chain and materials sourcing, conflicts of interest, anti-competitive behavior, and corruption and bribery.

These dimensions tie in with the drivers of Corporate Reputation as used in the Reputation Institute’s and other leading research organisation’s survey methodologies.

Sustainability is seen as a driver (dimension) of Reputation and these standards now provide companies and investors around the world with codified, market-based standards for measuring, managing and reporting on sustainability factors that drive value and affect financial performance.


1. Be careful of managing risks in silos. Risk interconnections are certainly deepening.

2. Can organizations really afford to ignore “Reputation Risks”? Reputation is amorphous and what these studies show is that ESG can no longer be ignored. It is now mainstream and definitive for Corporate Reputation.

3. Be prepared. Your DNA, your purpose and your sustainability efforts will be tested by stakeholders.