Intake Blog

Back to the Start?

posted March 05, 2012 by

Back to the Start?

Inside Counsel magazine reports that a French court recently found Monsanto guilty of poisoning a farmer through the use of Lasso, an herbicide used to control weeds. We’re told that the French farmer, 47-year-old Paul Francois, said he suffered various symptoms—including memory loss, headaches and stammering—after he accidentally inhaled Lasso in 2004. His pleadings alleged that Monsanto did not adequately warn about the health dangers of the product.

When detractors claim your products may harm those who use them, how do employees react?  Do they defend their corporate brand? Or do they withdraw in silence? What do we say to support their role as ambassadors for our brand when challenged?

Further, when you use biotechnology, as Monsanto has, to genetically modify new traits into seeds that will yield more and sustain agriculture in developing nations where higher yields are critical to feeding billions of people – how do you ensure that genetic modification (GM) is acceptable to employees; to the farmers who use the seeds; to the ethicists and religious leaders who may challenge and oppose your science; to the environmentalists and health activists who oppose anything but nature’s way; and to the communities who rely on agriculture to produce safe and abundant crops?

One of the most tweeted moments from this year’s Grammy Awards centered on an animated ad for Chipotle titled “Back to the Start.” Willie Nelson sings the words from Coldplay’s “The Scientist” as the ad plays out the darker side of factory farming in America. Millions watched and responded.

My daughter and her husband will only buy organic meats and vegetables. They’re Millennials who are active proponents of healthy, sustainable food for their young family. They ask tough questions and make choices that fit their beliefs.  Ads like Chipotle’s spot surely hit home with them.

In this brave new world, where do you go if you’re a great brand with a rich, more than 110-year heritage like that of Monsanto?

You go back to the start — as in the 1990s, the early days of the biotech revolution, when you first sought out stakeholder communities, religious leaders, ethicists and those who wager over the future. You continue your deep commitment to “listen more, and carefully, to consider everything you do and to consider every action with great care.” You seek out all who question who you are, and you engage them. You bring your credo, the Monsanto Pledge, to life by converting your eight critical values into actions. And you keep doing it because you and your people live and work in those communities where questions arise.

As I’m reminded every day – employees themselves are consumers. We need to give them a reason to believe.