Last week the media was a buzz over comments made by Myer CEO Bernie Brookes at a Macquarie Securities Conference. If you missed it, here is what Bernie had to say:
“Today’s announcement about another 0.5 per cent on the Medicare levy is not good for our customers and not good for the discretionary income world, and ideally that’s another one that may have an impact,” he is reported as saying. “Remember, a lot of our customers have equity portfolios, they’ve got superannuation and they get the bills each week, and suddenly the Medicare levy costs them another $300 from July next year and that’s $300 they might have spent with us.”
To paint the full picture the purpose of the levy is to raise funds that will support a better life for hundreds of thousands of Australians with a significant and permanent disability, and for their families and carers.
Understandably a lot of people are disappointed in Bernie’s insensitive and arguably greedy remarks. When contemplating the consequences of the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) levy Myer were clearly focused on themselves. Bernie’s comments no doubt will lead some to believe Myer cares about maximising their share of each customer’s wallet with inappropriate disregard for broader social and economic conditions.
How much did they think about what the levy means for those of their customers who are disability pensioners? Did they reflect on what it means for our community as a whole? Of course when people have less money to spend the retail industry is impacted. That’s simply logical: less discretionary income means less discretionary spending (including in retail stores). But the point Bernie clearly missed is that supporting disadvantaged members of our community is a far greater priority than discretionary consumerism.
Here we have yet another example of corporate ‘bubble behaviour’; that is operating within the confines of a self-centred world without appropriate focus on the bigger picture and those around us. If organisations want real and long lasting customer loyalty they need to get out of their bubble and think about the community they are a part of. People want integrity from business leaders; and that takes more than being honest and playing by the rules.
Integrity is also about compassion, kindness and corporate social responsibility. Also referred to as “corporate citizenship” the concept is simple: out of the goodness of their hearts organisations are willing to incur costs, wear losses or take actions that have no financial benefit to the company, in support of social and environmental priorities. Standing up in front of an audience to declare disappointment in the lost opportunity for you to make money because the community is channelling funds to the less fortunate is far from a good example of corporate citizenship.