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Centre for the Purpose of Corporations Brian Gallant Bloomberg interview by guest on 7th July 2020 03:33:50 AM

Paul: I'm joined now by Brian Gallant. Brian Gallant is the former Premier of New Brunswick. He's also part of a Canadian crisis PR firm that has formed a group to help Canadian companies address these subjects. Brian Gallant, thank you very much for joining us.

We hear a lot, in normal times, about good corporate citizenship in most major companies, I would say all major companies, certainly profess to be good corporate citizens. You don't have to go very far on their websites to find sections devoted to good corporate citizenship in most earnings releases, the companies outline things that they've done recently or ongoing projects that they've got to support certain initiatives; how much have things changed given the current social climate and the very volatile discussions that are going on on the subject concerning race and other equity subjects?

Brian:Well thank you very much Paul for having me, and your preamble does a great job of saying exactly where we're at in this point in time when it comes to the role of business in society. We have for years been chatting, maybe a little too softy, maybe a little too timidly, about how we can maybe enhance the role of business in society, and how people have expectations that are growing in terms of what business will do to help the communities in which they operate, to help their stakeholders, and to just help the world as a whole.  

You're absolutely right to say that that has been amplified, accelerated, exacerbated, whatever you wanna call it, but it's becoming more of a thing now, over the last few months. And the reason, we believe, is because 2020 has shown us, when we have challenges such as the pandemic, when we have people stepping up to say that all institutions in society need to do better when it comes to inequities and equalities, racism, we see people looking at every institution and that includes businesses and of course that includes large businesses. So the centre that we're launching in which we're very excited to be doing so, is going to help businesses understand what are these trends, what are these movements, these extra pressures, and what they can do to make sure that they're doing everything they can to be contributing positively to society.

And the last point I'll make on your first question is that, yeah, I believe that CEOs and C-suite executives that I've met over the last few months on this specific topic and during my time in government and in other endeavours I've taken, they wanna do good, they really do want to help the stakeholders, help the communities in which they operate, but sometimes their definition of what that is, or what the role and responsibilities of doing good is for their business is a bit limited. And I think they're going to see, moving forward, they're gonna have to expand this scope of their responsibilities towards all the stakeholders and communities.

Paul: Navigator, the public relations company, describes itself as a "high-stakes public strategy and communications firm." A lot of people consider it a 'crisis management' firm. We often read about Navigator in the newspapers when somebody or a company is in big trouble. Is this a crisis for Canadian corporations?

Brian: Well you're right to say Navigator is known for that. Obviously it does more than just crisis management, but Navigator is very proud to be the top-tier firm in the country when it comes to helping businesses deal with any type of crisis they may have. And in terms of the sort of systemic approach that the public is having towards business right now, to really push business in different ways that we haven't seen before, and in an amplified way, really is getting to a crisis point. I mean, businesses are feeling it. I'm not sitting her saying anything that a CEO or C-suite executive or a thought leader in this country isn't aware of already. They know that there is increased pressure and they also, I believe, think that that pressure's not going to subside, it's actually going to continue to exponentially become more important moving forward.

So this centre really comes at it with the idea that the public, the stakeholders of all businesses, even governments, they all are asking business to do more, and do things that they aren't really used to doing. So we wanna help them navigate that, we wanna help them understand why this is important, the best ways to go about it, we want to provide thought leadership in this space, and of course really go through the case-by-case of every business on how we can make sure they're doing everything they can to really have their purpose be about making the community in which they operate and their stakeholders better.

Paul: Do companies need to do a better job of telling their stories? Because, to go back to the beginning of our conversation, a lot of companies are pretty genuine about trying to make a positive difference in social ways, or do they need to fundamentally change the way they do things. For instance: taking a look at their hiring practices.

Brian: So, yeah, I think you're right to say that many are doing the best they can and doing things that they believe are making a real difference; won't repeat the same thing I said, I think they're going to have to start to question about what that definition should look like moving forward, because there's certainly pressure for that definition to change, and for the scope in which they're responsible for contributing to society will most likely expand, if it hasn't already. And look, there's pressure on businesses to really have this sense of continuous improvement. Lots of businesses are doing good things, some businesses maybe not as much, but lots are doing good. And I think telling their story, talking about why this is important, but making sure that whenever they do talk about these things, that they follow it up with action, is gonna be very important. And there's this new sort of era, with the purpose of the corporation movement, it's that businesses have a role now to also speak out on social issues that are important to society, that are important to the country, and to their stakeholders. And if a business isn't thinking about those social questions, they can find themselves flat-footed, when all of a sudden a bunch of people show up knocking at their door asking "well, what do you think about this important social question? What are you doing in your privileged position in a significant business to make a difference with regards to this social question." So it's something that they have to be consistently thinking about, have an attitude that it's a journey, you're probably never gonna get a score of 100 on 100, but that every single year, quarter, and even day, you're trying to get that much better to the contributions you make, and make those contributions in a broader way to help society.

Paul: Brian Gallant, thank you very much for an interesting conversation. He of course is a former Premier of New Brunswick, he's now with Navigator, the high-stakes communications and public relations firm has formed a group to help companies up their game when it comes to social responsibility. 

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