The bubble reputation: a lesson for sustainability folk

June 28, 2021

When someone says: “BrewDog?” I usually think: “Why not? OK. I’ll have another can.”

However, in the light of the recent Punks With Purpose incident, I thought: “Shakespeare got it right again.”

How so?

Well in the Seven Ages of Man speech we find the description of the soldier:

“Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth.”

James Watt, one of BrewDog’s co-founders, fashioned an image of himself as a happy-go-lucky, cool bloke businessman. Yep, even in the cannon’s mouth. He was a sort of Richard Branson for the 21st century. That has taken a big knock from the letter signed by many current and ex-employees denouncing BrewDog’s employment practices. Particularly damaging in the current climate, is the accusation that employees’ mental health was damaged by BrewDog’s working practices.

Bang goes the “bubble reputation” for him.

BrewDog’s sales will hold up. Watt’s reputation won’t recover from going through the shredder.

It is not just energetic, attention-seeking entrepreneurs whose reputations are at risk.

A recent ranking of UK fashion retailers was compiled by artificial intelligence solutions provider, alva. Websites were scraped for publicly available information across ten key ESG metrics. The resulting study claimed half the 18 firms surveyed were failing to support supply-chain workers’ rights. This was but one of the items on the charge sheet. So a blow to reputation for bottom performers such as Primark and Boohoo. An implicit boost for the higher performers like Marks & Spencer and John Lewis.

Note though, that the low performers have a way back. Improve underlying performance. Increase transparency about that improved performance.

Do that and “Bingo! We’re back in business.”

Where corporate reputation is concerned, facts count. Transparency is an ally, not just a nice-to-have.

All a bit academic now for Mr Watt.

Author: Peter Truesdale