Tag Archives: business

“Who are we – and why are we here?” Corporate Purpose, and why it matters.

Profile of Prof. Sue KonzelmannProfessor Sue Konzelmann explores the history of corporate purpose and its potential to support small business growth.

Ever since the Limited Liability Act of 1855, UK companies opting for that status have effectively owned themselves, and in the process, acquired a legal identity of their own. This of course, begs the question of what sort of identity – or personality – that should be, an idea that underpins the concept of organisational branding, and the wider question of corporate purpose.

People who are obsessed with money, tick-box checking or espousing values that they do not – or cannot – live up to, tend to have rather limited popularity. It’s not so very different for businesses, with the likely effect of having a negative impact on customer retention and the ability to recruit the best talent, not to mention damaging effects on the environment in which they operate.

Corporate purpose encompasses many of the same questions; but it takes a wider perspective than organizational branding, including questions such as “what are businesses actually for; and how should they relate to society and the environment?”

Corporate purpose is not a new idea. The purposes of early companies were typically public, such as building cathedrals and universities and developing much-needed economic infrastructure including transportation and finance.  But by the turn of the twentieth century, for most businesses of the time, corporate purpose had shifted decisively from public to private.

Following the First World War, however, the question of whether companies should serve a public purpose was reawakened by the huge uncertainty accompanying a world depression, recurring financial crises, rapid social change, growing inequality and, of course, a devastating pandemic. If any of this sounds familiar, it’s hardly surprising that the question of corporate purpose is now firmly back on the agenda. It also strongly suggests that we didn’t get the answers right the last time we thought about it – and that we should do better this time round.

So, if it’s not about having a laser-like focus on money and doesn’t refer to window dressing, then what exactly is corporate purpose?

What it’s not may be easier to define. It’s certainly not a rigid ‘one size fits all’ approach; and perspectives often vary with role. The CEO of the world’s largest asset management company, BlackRock’s Larry Fink, for example, in his 2019 Letter to CEOs, suggested that:

“Purpose unifies management, employees, and communities. It drives ethical behavior and creates an essential check on actions that go against the best interests of stakeholders. Purpose guides culture, provides a framework for consistent decision-making, and, ultimately, helps sustain long-term financial returns for the shareholders of your company.”

In the same year, the Business Roundtable published its own perspective – a “new Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation”, signed by 181 CEOs. In it they declared that companies should serve not only their shareholders, but also deliver value to their customersinvest in employeesdeal fairly with suppliers and support the communities in which they operate.

What then does all this mean, and why does it matter to SMEs? Well, with confidence in both politicians and businesses shakier than it’s been in at least half a century, defining how your business fits in is a great way to maintain the confidence of your customers, people and the places where you operate. That will do long term sustainable development no harm at all. And with SMEs often being more agile than their larger corporate counterparts, as well as contributing massively to both employment and the UK’s economy, this is clearly an area where smaller businesses can take the initiative, and drive forward positive change.

Further Information

 

Share

Five ways to focus your growth as a small business

Dr Pamela Yeow is Assistant Dean (External Engagement) in Birkbeck’s School of Business, Economics and Informatics and teaches on the Help to Grow: Management Programme. She shares five tips for SMEs to accelerate their growth.

People make your business, and this is even more true for small businesses, where people are your business. In the midst of the great resignation prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than half of businesses that are reporting a worker shortage unable to meet demands (ONS, 2021), it is getting increasingly difficult to find the right employees for the right positions.

While the idea of trying to grow your business in the midst of our post-Brexit, post-lockdown, cost of living crisis might seem daunting, there are steps you can take today to start moving in the right direction. Here are five suggestions on where to begin.

1. Authentic leadership

Leadership is crucial in all businesses. Positive leadership is not just for those right at the top of the tree, but relevant to all positions at all levels. People look to leaders for direction, for strategy, and for reassurance when things are uncertain. Employees want to know that they are respected and appreciated, and also heard. Consider how you can develop clear, consistent communications to support and reassure your teams.

2. Develop partnerships and networks

Partnerships, relationships and networks are important for business growth and development. It is important to continue creating and renewing industry relationships, but have you considered developing partnerships and establishing networks in the wider community? Universities and colleges, for example, can work with businesses to develop internships or knowledge transfer partnerships.

3. Knowing your strengths

Most of us cannot be everything to everyone (we do try!). Having a clear understanding of what your business stands for is always a strength. Try asking your colleagues what they think their strengths are. Sometimes these can come as a surprise to the senior leadership team.

4. Values and purpose

Increasingly, businesses are expected to have a clear purpose and employees are voting with their feet if their values aren’t aligned with their organization. Knowing your purpose and values enables employees to proactively relate and engage with the business.

5. Flexibility and agility

As a small or medium sized business, one major advantage is your agility and flexibility. With greater accessibility to senior management within SMEs, this means that staff can share new ideas quickly and embed new suggestions even quicker. Consider how accessible your team is today. How could you communicate to staff that you’re open to new ideas?

Keen to grow your business?

The Help to Grow: Management Programme is a 12-week course that offers 50 hours of practical business leadership and strategy training, with 1:1 business mentoring, peer-learning networks in a hybrid (face-to-face and online) format. This programme is specifically for business owners and senior leaders operating in small and medium sized businesses who want to grow.

Register for the Help to Grow: Management Programme and start creating a plan for your next stage of growth!

Further Information

Share

“The Pioneer Programme was absolutely phenomenal”

Susan Christine Wachera, MSc Organisational Psychology student and winner of 2022 Pioneer Award for the Best Business Pitch, tells the story of her business, Black Talanta, as well as sharing her experience of taking part in Pioneer, a Birkbeck programme that helps students and graduates develop the knowledge and skills they need to start a business.

Susan Wachera

What is your business about?
Black Talanta supports Black students and recent graduates in accessing highly-skilled employment, mentorships and internships.

Did you always know you’d be a businesswoman?
From the age of 10 my whole life had actually been geared towards becoming a doctor. I studied BSc Medical Biochemistry and received an offer for a place at medical school. However, I knew I also had this other side of me that was very entrepreneurial and business-minded. I’ve always had side hustles going on. I thought for a while I could balance being a part-time doctor with my other businesses. Everyone thought I was crazy!

Why didn’t you end up pursuing a degree in medicine?
During my undergraduate degree, I founded a business that helped secure students medical internships and work placements. By doing this, I realised I had a talent in supporting people write CVs and build their personal brand, and I wanted to explore this career path further. I made a big and brave decision to give up my place in medical school, the year before I was due to start. I wanted to find out who I was when medicine wasn’t involved – because my whole identity at that time was wrapped up in medicine.

What did you do next?
I discovered Birkbeck’s MSc Organisational Psychology course and I was mind blown. I never knew that I could combine my love for business and my love for psychology. I started the course in October 2020 and haven’t looked back. Black Talanta came about through my lived experience and my desire to help other Black people secure opportunities and achieve their goals. It has taken off in recent months, with the help of Birkbeck’s Pioneer programme.

Susan Wachera presenting at the Pioneer Awards ceremony

How did Pioneer help you progress your business idea?
Pioneer was absolutely phenomenal. It helped me move from concept to product in only three months, which is almost unheard of. I was focused on applying everything I learnt on the programme, and I was taught how to set up a business in the right way, so I managed to set the foundations for my business quickly. I really appreciated all the Pioneer workshops, mentors and resources – it definitely helped me get opportunities, such as working with the Deputy Mayor of London, Silicon Valley, and the United Nations. I would definitely recommend the programme to other students.

What are your plans for the next few months?
For Black Talanta to really work at the scale I want it to, I’m looking to develop more partnerships with employers, so I can bring in as much talent into the workforce as I can.

Further information

Share

Management Consultancy and Organizational Change: Are you up for the challenge?

Each year, students on the MSc Management Consultancy and Organisational Change work directly with major clients of PA Consulting on a variety of challenging consultancy projects.

A unique aspect of Birkbeck’s MSc Management Consultancy and Organisational Change programme is that students have the option to complete the Consultancy Challenge in place of a traditional dissertation or research project.

Partnering with PA Consulting, the global innovation and transformation consultancy, students on the Consultancy Challenge work with PA’s major clients on a range of projects across an intense twelve-week period. For these students, it is an opportunity to deliver solutions to real problems that clients face, reflecting the work of management consultants, and experiencing a unique journey alongside team members who all offer different skills and knowledge.

For the 2021 academic year, students formed two teams, each tasked with solving a problem in a large, complex organisation. The first team completed a knowledge governance project for a large UK animal charity. The second team completed a project advising a regulatory organisation in the medical field on implementing hybrid working.

Dr David Gamblin, programme director and module convenor of the Consultancy Challenge, said: “It was a joy to see the students in action over the twelve-week consulting cycle, from initial scoping of the briefs and defining the problem with their clients, to the final presentation of deliverables. The students tackled two challenging projects, put learning into practice, and ultimately delivered meaningful outputs for their clients.”

Throughout the project, each student team is mentored by a consultant from PA, who provides support and guidance, as well as assurance that the work is of a standard that PA would be proud of.

The consulting cycle culminated with the student teams presenting their final analyses and recommendations, which were met with positive reactions from the clients, PA consultants, and Birkbeck supervisors. The clients highlighted the “hard work and professionalism” of the students, and they were impressed with the practical advice that was offered.

The 2022 Consultancy Challenge officially kicked-off on 25 April 2022 with students working on two new client projects. If you think you are up for the challenge in future years, have a look at our Management Consultancy and Organisational Change programme page, or contact David Gamblin to learn more.

Find out more

Share

Changing the stories we tell about creativity

Jamie Hannon graduated with distinction in MSc Management with Business Innovation from Birkbeck’s School of Business, Economics and Informatics. Working for the Barbican and Culture Mile Learning during his studies, Jamie put theory into practice and interrogated practice with theory, linking the creative arts with skills in innovation to create the Fusion Futures skills and employability programme.

Photo credit: Christian Cassiel – Copyright: Museum of London

Creativity and the arts are recognised for their contribution to innovation. Yet, space for creativity is often sidelined by business and education. Even those working in arts and culture play into this narrative that creativity exists as a separate ‘nice-to-have’. This comfortable status quo has a lot to do with how we evaluate and talk about our arts and culture initiatives.

In 2020, I was lucky that my organisation was in a position to retain its workforce. It allowed me some creative space to develop a new learning programme based on the provocation ‘how can we best prepare young people for the as-yet-unknown jobs of the future’.  To really interrogate the possibilities, I drew upon my arts background and my burgeoning knowledge of innovation as part of my studies towards an MSc Management with Business Innovation at Birkbeck.

Knowledge sharing as a tactic against future challenges

Influenced by the academic discourse, a possible solution started to emerge.  Skills in knowledge sharing might be the only ones relevant when future jobs are unknown. Knowledge sharing – the donating and collecting of information that is then utilised by the receiving individual as knowledge – is considered a key behaviour within innovation-led learning organisations. This was sounding like a promising direction to take the programme in.

Of course, it made sense to me that knowledge sharing as a learning tactic could be deployed against future challenges. But would the young participants understand this? Participants likely wouldn’t articulate it in clear academic terms.  So, how were the programme outcomes going to be measured?  I had spent a lot of time on the programme and had promised its stakeholders a full and extensive evaluation. The choice of possible quantitative and qualitative methods was, for a while, disabling.

I had to stop and cut myself some slack, as they say. I had to strip back my thinking to the level of an individual taking part. In order to evaluate the programme, what did I need to know from the young students?  Were they aware that they had experienced knowledge sharing in the workshop?

Picturing the experience

My logic was this: participants might not be able to fully articulate their experience of knowledge sharing, but they would give away clues about how they understood their experience through linguistic pictures in their responses. We often use linguistic pictures to create an understanding of something.  (For example, ‘feeling down’ provokes an understanding of a person’s mood in a picture form – we imagine a person looking down or lacking energy so therefore sitting down.)  So, I decided to conduct loosely structured interviews that allowed participants the space to fully describe their experience in their natural vocabulary.

Revealing something hidden

“I was showing my creative mind”, one said.  “There was more to it”, “I saw the meaning behind their picture”, others said.  “I delved deep into my soul”.  “I could really see”.

A common linguistic picture appeared, the experience of revealing something to others or having something revealed to them. Although the young students had not used the words share, give, or take, they were describing how they were giving information about themselves to others and then receiving information from others in return.  The donating and collecting of knowledge had been experienced, and interestingly, it was at the level of identity.

The role of identity in knowledge sharing

The artist facilitators instinctively started with teamwork activities that explored identities. One artist’s exercise was to take a polaroid of how the student saw themselves, then a second of how they thought others saw them. Each picture was an agent for discussion and became an indirect and less pressurised way to share.

I realised that before sharing complex information and before utilising it as knowledge towards challenges, participants were sharing who they were with each other.  They had been supporting each other to share their authentic selves, which created a shared psychological safety within which the rest of the workshop activities could be conducted.

This was an important revelation for me. Returning to the academic discourse, I found that identity and self-concept are linked to a person’s understanding of their own knowledge and abilities and whether they feel comfortable to share; a self-confidence to offer a contribution and a humbleness to know how others can contribute.

Empowered with these findings, I can talk about this new programme and its impact on innovation. I can say that through understanding who they are and what knowledge, insights and experiences they bring to the group, participants have practised knowledge sharing. They feel open and confident to take part in collaboration and collective problem solving.

Tailoring the learning experience

For the degree, I achieved distinction and received an award of academic excellence. But it wasn’t all hard work. I enjoyed the experience because I took the advice given to me in a Birkbeck dissertation seminar. Their recommendation was to investigate a topic that was of interest to me; that I could apply to my career or other ambitions, and that I would feel proud and empowered to know more about. This advice, coupled with the course’s flexible approach to module selection meant that I tailored my learning to me and my ambitions.

At work, the story I now tell about my new learning programme, Fusion Futures, is that it is more than ‘nice-to-have’ – it’s fundamental to innovation!

Further information

Share

Meet The Finalists | Pioneer 1.0 Programme 2022

Meet the early-stage entrepreneurs who will be pitching live at this year’s Pitch & Awards evening, competing for Best Business Idea and Best Business Pitch.

We are excited to introduce this year’s Pioneer 1.0 finalists who have been shortlisted to pitch their business ideas live in June in front of an esteemed judging panel and invited audience.

After two turbulent years which transitioned the Pitch & Awards evening to a virtual event, we are delighted to be back in the room to celebrate the fifth year of the programme.

Over the last five years, the Pioneer 1.0 programme has supported over 500 budding entrepreneurs at Birkbeck and continues to champion ambitious students and recent graduates who have innovative ideas that will make a difference.

Since kicking off in November 2021, participants have taken part in seven monthly workshops to develop the skills and knowledge to succeed in business, learning from a range of entrepreneurs, industry experts and each other to turn their ideas into reality.

The six finalists are in with a chance of winning either the Best Business Idea or Best Business Pitch award, each worth a £1500 cash prize to support their business, along with a bespoke package of mentoring, coaching and promotion.

This year, over 100 students and recent graduates have participated in the programme and their achievements will be celebrated at the pitch and awards evening on Tuesday 14 June at BMA House in Bloomsbury.

Meet the Finalists

Portrait of Annabel Ola looking into camera.

 

Annabel Ola

  • MSc Culinary Innovation Management
  • Business: BEKIRI

BEKIRI exists to expand the boundaries of modern luxury patisserie. The fusion classic recipes and African ingredients will offer a new dimension of cultural discovery and appreciation for customers.

 

Ella Snell smiling for the camera.

 

Ella Snell

  • MA Philosophy
  • Business: Art School+

Art School+ is a service which connects early-career and underserved artists with unique paid commissions. It further aids both artists and organisations by providing bespoke training and 360 support.

 

 

 

Picture of Kacey Ibirọ̀gbà

Kacey Ibirogbà

  • Bachelor of Law
  • Business: Kọ silẹ

Kọ silẹ (koh-see-leh) is a compounded social bookmarking platform, simplified and designed with the adaptability of restoring structured balance into every aspect of our lives.

 

 

Picture of Sonja

Sonja Bacinski

  • FDSc Computing/Information Technology/Web Development
  • Business: Zolibri

Zolibri is an online platform that finds, validates and brings together the best of ethical & eco-friendly cosmetics from numerous online shops so you can find them all in one place.

 

 

Picture of Susan Christine Wachera smiling

 

Susan Christine Wachera

  • MSc Organisational Psychology
  • Business: Black Talanta

Black Talanta is democratising access to equitable high-skilled employment by pairing internships with black heritage students and recent graduates enabling them to make an informed career decision about the professional pathways that best suit them.

 

 

 

 

Picture of Wunmi

 

Wunmi Adebowale

  • MSc Coaching Psychology
  • Business: The Whole Woman Initiative

The Whole Woman Initiative is the social cause working to end domestic violence against women in Nigeria by providing psycho-social support and building a safe space community.

 

 

 

 

Further Information

Share

Food Businesses – 5 trends for 2022

Dr Thomas Kyritsis is Programme Director of Birkbeck and Le Cordon Bleu’s BBA Culinary Industry Management and MSc Culinary Innovation Management. He has received a first class BA (Hons) in International Hotel Management and a MA in Hospitality Management with distinction from the University of West London before pursuing a PhD on the impact of shareholder activism on the corporate boards of international hotel chains.

Le Cordon Bleu is known for helping shape the careers of some of the best chefs, food enthusiasts, and hospitality professionals around the world. Recently, more chefs are developing their own brands, setting up businesses, and moving from restaurants into retail.

This entrepreneurial route has become a strong motivating factor for students to pursue a career in hospitality. Market research and developing an instinct for the latest trends is part of the journey to become an entrepreneur. Here are a few trends we predict that aspiring food entrepreneurs should bear in mind for 2022.

 

Informality

A formal service is no longer as attractive to consumers and instead they are going for dining experiences that offer a relaxed service and environment. At the high-end, it has become about paring things back and simplicity. Less is more, and there is an even stronger focus on quality. There is also a notable shift towards greater engagement between staff, guests, and the food. People have a genuine interest in the menu and provenance has become important. Going forward, more fine dining businesses will try focusing on informality and accessibility.

Sustainability

Consumers are aware of the impact food production causes to the environment, and their choices are influenced by the extent that restaurants adopt sustainable and ethical practices. This is not just a fad – the Sustainable Restaurant Association was launched in 2010 with just 50 members, nowadays it has more than 7,000! Articles about the UK’s best sustainable restaurants are frequently featured in online food and travel resources. There will continue to be more transparency about where restaurants are getting their food from, how they engage with or support local producers, and how aspects such as food wastage are handled.

Digital Experience

Fast food, fast casual, casual, and grab-and-go concepts have become more digital, impacting the way we pay and order but also how brands engage with customers. Mobile ordering and contactless payments are standard practices; so, what comes next? Companies are exploring innovations that will transform them digitally. For example, Chilango recently opened its first digital-only venue in Croydon, including a fully digital ordering system. McDonald’s has tested AI which scans license plates with which to, with customers’ permission, predict orders and has also tested the idea of voice assistants to improve its drive-thru experience.

Membership Models

Many restaurants have, out of necessity, toyed with the concept of membership or subscription services. In the UK, M Restaurants offers its members exclusive access to their lounges and benefits such as complimentary breakfast, discounts on food and access to events such as masterclasses, tastings and talks. In the US, Michelin-starred restaurant Quince in San Francisco has created a membership based-model with its sister restaurants and its affiliate farm, Quince & Co, offering members a dining credit, quarterly boxes with seasonal produce and pantry products, and educational workshops.

Home Delivery/Meal Kits

The online delivery market was increasing at a significant rate before Covid-19, and during the pandemic it became even bigger and more important for hospitality operators. The pandemic also led to the growth of DIY meal kits. These meal kits have given the opportunity for many hospitality operators to diversify their revenue streams. Casual food brands as well as fine dining have both been embraced by consumers. Although many believe that the re-opening of the sector will slow down the DIY meal kit market, we believe that more operators will explore this avenue.

Share

Make soap not waste: the MBA graduate on a mission to reduce plastic packaging

Martina Schwarz wearing a grey t-shirt standing against a white background.

Blackmarket founder Martina Schwarz. Photo by Simon Habegger.

Martina Schwarz came up with the idea for a refillable soap that produces no plastic waste while writing her MBA thesis. Her business, Blackmarket, launches this September.

What should you do when you’re worried that the role you are great at is contributing to climate change?

This was the dilemma facing Martina Schwarz, an experienced packaging designer who’s worked with the likes of Unilever, Procter and Gamble and Kellogg’s, when she enrolled on the Central Saint Martins Birkbeck MBA.

“A friction started to develop between my work and my values”, Martina explains. “I decided to write my MBA thesis on packaging and sustainability to incorporate my experience as an insider in the packaging industry with a focus on sustainability.”

Martina began her exploratory thesis with a focus on skincare, but when the pandemic hit, pivoting to handwash seemed like a natural step. In April 2020, Martina left her job to focus full time on her business, Blackmarket, and its first product: a refillable liquid handwash that uses no single-use plastic packaging.

“The first question I always get asked is why ‘Blackmarket’”, she explains, “You could say that the name has negative connotations, but I’ve chosen it so that people will ask questions. Blackmarket symbolises a desire to change the status quo and challenge someone’s thought process about how we design products.”

Blackmarket’s handwash stands out from mainstream refillable competitors through its innovative delivery system. Through her research on the MBA, Martina realised that a lot of personal care and cosmetic products are made mainly of water. By removing the water, she was able to design packaging similar to that of dishwasher tablets or laundry detergents that dissolves in contact with warm water.

“It’s about rethinking how we create packaging”, says Martina, “the film is a thickener that gives the handwash the gel texture that we recognise, so the packaging becomes part of the product. By removing the water at the packaging stage, the product weighs 95% less than its competitors, so transportation emissions are also reduced. Why would we bother to transport something that we can get on tap at home?”

The film packaging of Blackmarket liquid soap is the thickener that gives it a recognisable texture. Image credit – Blackmarket.

Blackmarket’s innovative approach saw Martina receive the UAL Creative Enterprise Award for Innovation in July 2021. She receives £5000 and a mentorship from IBM iX, who sponsored the award.

“The prize money is absolutely incredible – as a startup founder, there are a lot of costs associated with launching a cosmetic product – but the mentorship is as valuable as the prize money if not more,” says Martina. “I’m so pleased that IBM iX is the sponsor – I’m looking forward to using the mentorship programme to focus on behavioural change and the customer journey, making it as easy as possible for people to make sustainable choices.”

While, environmentally speaking, the best choice for handwash is a bar of soap, Martina’s market research found that the majority of consumers aren’t willing to make the switch from liquid soap. The product aims to make it as easy as possible for consumers to make pro-environmental choices.

Blackmarket has launched with a Kickstarter campaign, and Martina has an ambitious vision for the business: “Long term, we want to launch new products like shampoo and conditioner, but also to think about packaging differently. The nature of packaging is to be something that protects, but I really want with Blackmarket to think of that quite differently. I want to change perceptions of packaging to something that is long term, precious, and to be proud of how much you have used it.”

Further Information:

Share

Rainbow washing: what should we think when every brand seems to support Pride Month?

With Pride Month becoming increasingly commercialised, Dr Olivier Sibai, Lecturer in Marketing at Birkbeck, University of London, Dr Mimoun, Lecturer in Marketing at the Business School (formerly Cass), and Dr Achilleas Boukis, Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Sussex discuss how brands are engaging with the month of celebration.

A zoom in on some people's feet with rainbow colours on them

Image credit: Angela Compagnone

It’s June again, the first heatwave has arrived, flowers are blooming, and more and more rainbow avatars appear on your social media feeds! Yes, it’s Pride Month again and brands won’t let you forget it! As everyone celebrates Pride, brands won’t stop showing their surface-level love and support to position themselves as socially progressive and increase their resonance with their younger audience.  From brands’ rainbow LinkedIn profile picture to Google Doodles, every brand and its neighbor are jumping on the occasion to demonstrate their virtue. Yet, people are not so easily fooled and criticism abounds! Between accusations of rainbow-washing, blog posts wondering whether we can escape the commercialisation of Pride, and lists of brand’s “Pride fails,” consumers show their disapproval vocally.

a screen shot of a Disney post showing disney characters walking across a rainbow 'Pride Flag' backgroundOur research recently published in Psychology and Marketing uncovers how consumers interpret brands’ LGBTQ+-related support and decide on whether to condemn or to approve them. We show that consumers are more likely to condemn brands as ‘woke-washers’ if they are unable to prove morally competent. Specifically, media and consumers make up their minds on the biggest corporates by assessing such performative acts of allyship through three moral criteria: sensitivity, vision, and integration.

Moral sensitivity — a brand must recognize the moral content of a situation as failure to do so is likely to damage customer satisfaction, customer-brand relations, and brand equity. For example, by posting straight characters walking over the rainbow flag, Disney has proved morally insensitive to the stigma and discrimination that LGBTQ+ individualsThe Uno game packaging with the tag line 'Play with Pride' on the cover are still experiencing in many instances.

Moral vision — a brand must show a clear moral vision when outlining challenges to free speech that help solve problems for markets and society as failure to do so results in brands being dubbed as ‘conformists’ — those who reproduce the dominant moral judgments about what is acceptable to say publicly. While Mattel still shows a lack of moral vision by mostly reproducing mainstream discourses around gender and diversity, it at least shows some moral integration with the launch of gender-neutral Barbie dolls in 2019 followed by the launch of the UNO Play with Pride edition this year (alongside $50,000 donated to the It Gets Better Project).

A screenshot of a Pfizer Inc. Instagram post with a video still of a woman called Valentina, and 'she/her/hers. The caption reads: "We're celebrating #PrideMonth2021 because everyone deserves to be seen, heard, and respected for who they are. At Pfizer, we affirm every way people may choose to identify. Watch what it means to be Pfizer and proud."

The caption reads: “We’re celebrating #PrideMonth2021 because everyone deserves to be seen, heard, and respected for who they are. At Pfizer, we affirm every way people may choose to identify. Watch what it means to be Pfizer and proud.”

Moral integration — a brand must have the ability to pursue their moral beliefs in all situations as failure to do so results in brands being dubbed as ‘opportunists’ and ‘fame-seekers’ — manipulating the boundaries of free speech to serve personal interest rather than reform morality. For example, despite sharing the positive experience of its LGBTQ+ staff members, Pfizer demonstrates a lack of moral integration by simultaneously funding anti-gay politicians.

But let’s not despair, some brands have understood the point of Pride Month and, in doing so, further the fight for LGBTQ equity and inclusivity. For example, over the last few year (moral integration), Skittles celebrates Pride Month with a limited-edition Skittles Pride Packs (gray packaging and all gray candies) to emphasize the rainbow visual as a symbol of the LGBTQ+ community (moral sensitivity), alongside donation of $1 from each pack to GLAAD.

A black and white skittles packet. The tag line reads: 'During Pride only one rainbow maters #onerainbow."

A Skittles packet with the tag line: ‘During Pride only one rainbow matters #onerainbow

So has Pride Month just become another branded holiday? Well, it’s not for us to settle. But what we can tell you is how to judge the genuineness of branded communication: evaluate the brand’s moral sensitivity, vision, and integration. While we can condemn the over-commercialisation of Pride Month, the good news is that these branded discourses, whatever their values and intent, still raise awareness of the LGBTQ+ cause and normalize and legitimize its presence in public discourse.

Want to know more? ‘Authenticating Brand Activism: Negotiating the Boundaries of Free Speech to Make a Change’ by Dr Olivier Sibai, Lecturer in Marketing at Birkbeck, University of London, Dr Mimoun, Lecturer in Marketing at the Business School (formerly Cass), and Dr Achilleas Boukis, Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Sussex, is published in Psychology & Marketing.

Share

“If you try and do everything at once, you’ll never get started.”

Neither pregnancy nor a pandemic could keep Francesca Calabrese from completing her degree. She reflects on her experience on the BBA Culinary Industry Management.

Picture of Francesca CalabreseWhen I first moved to London, it was really important to me to be independent and not ask for help from my parents. My friends were all going to university and I would have loved to do the same, but as I was working full-time, I couldn’t see how I would be able to get a degree and support myself.

I was aware of Birkbeck because I was working in a hostel in nearby Russell Square, but I hadn’t realised that it had evening classes until I came across a prospectus that somebody had left in the hostel.

As a supervisor, I’ve always liked management, and my other passion is for cooking, as my dad is a chef. Ever since I was little, I’ve wanted to set up my own food business, like a restaurant or bakery, so when I was browsing the Birkbeck website and saw a new course launching with Le Cordon Bleu, BBA Culinary Industry Management, it felt like a sign!

Even after applying and completing my interview, I had my doubts about whether I would be able to manage work and study. However, I decided to give myself this opportunity, so I shifted to working part-time and applied for a student loan to help fund my studies. I’m so glad I did, as the course has been an amazing experience and really important for my future career.

The first year flew by: we had the opportunity to do practical sessions at Le Cordon Bleu, which I found completely fascinating. At Birkbeck, I attended lectures and explored management in more depth through small group seminars.

In the second year, we suddenly found ourselves in the COVID-19 pandemic. Even that felt doable, as our tutors were so understanding and were always available any time we needed help or support.

A global pandemic would have been enough to deal with, but last summer I got pregnant and once again was wondering if I would be able to manage. I can be quite a stubborn person and my friends were sure that I would end up dropping out, but I decided once again to give myself the opportunity to succeed. It was tough: my parents were in Italy and couldn’t come over to help me and the thought of the assessments I needed to do once my son was born was really stressful! At the time, I thought I would never make it, but now I’m writing my dissertation having missed just one class through it all and I’m almost done!

I’m so proud of what I’ve achieved and most of all I’m happy that I didn’t give up. Once things are a bit more normal, I’m interested in exploring food development and eventually opening my own business.

My advice to anyone considering studying at Birkbeck is that it’s really difficult to think in one-year terms: take things slowly, do one thing at a time, one exam at a time and things will get much easier. If you try and do everything all at once, you’ll never get started. Take your time, reflect and do things at your pace.

Further Information:

Share