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The Multi-Faceted Nature of the 21st Century Consultant

The business environment is rapidly changing. Globalization has shifted the way that business owners and leaders interact and navigate in trade. In response, the consultant's realm of expertise must adjust to growing trends. Small businesses, in and outside the United States, are embracing the opportunity to expand their brand to international context through social media platforms such as Facebook Marketplace. India's e-commerce marketplace is set to overtake the United States with "digital" sales expected to reach

$63.7 billion by 2020. Amazon responded to this projection by investing close to 3 billion dollars in their Indian unit. As consultants, does this mean that we should consider investing in India's e-commerce market? Not necessarily, but this does insinuate that we should spruce up on our Hindi. Furthermore, consultants are required to develop a multifaceted nature in order remain relevant in the on-going process of globalization.

Business owners are becoming less hesitant about investing in the international market because of globalization and user-friendly platforms such as Shopify, a Canadian e-commerce company whose headquarters are in Ottawa, Ontario. As a result, consultants must acquire the skills associated with global leadership to stay relevant in the industry and to expand the awareness from their brand to attract leaders to utilize their services. This shift in international commerce has sparked a worldwide conversation on social responsibility. Major brands are striving to capture millennial interest through corporate social responsibility through their marketing and brand strategy. Likewise, consultants must be intentional concerning their stance on social responsibility in their consulting brand.

The Socially Responsible Consultant

Social responsibility is an ethical conviction by which individuals and organizations abide by as they make decisions, expand and trade. In order for a business to be deemed as socially responsible, the organization must be intentional about ensuring that their decision-making process always involves the benefit of society, which solicits the oversight of the consultant. Globalization has placed a demand on businesses to adopt values that include various levels of social responsibility. For a consultant to stay relevant in the 21st century, aspects of social responsibility must be seen in their brand as well as the brands that the consultant represents.

Developing a consulting brand that is intentional about social responsibility is a balancing act between prosperity and the welfare of society. The unintentional consultant can unimaginable harm to their brand by sending their clients mixed messages. It is imperative that the consultant uses social responsibility as a gauge as they represent clients and market their services to clients. The modern-day consumer requires that companies pay close attention to the message that their brand sends to the public and also the message that the brands may insinuate.

Nike is a perfect example of a company that has been crucified for the sake of social responsibility. In the 1990s, Nike suffered public criticism over allegations of sweatshops in Asia.[1] In this ever changing and globalized world, human rights violations are no longer associated solely with governments, but also with multinational corporations.[2] Nike is still suffering from these allegations despite the quality of the products that they produce and the amount of endorsements that they receive. Imagine if your consulting brand was associated with this negative press? Damage control was easier when the only news source was the newspaper. However, the news has become an op-ed on social media platforms where the consumer can determine if your brand survives or dies. Moreover, Nike teaches the consultant that social responsibility requires an ethical compass that must be weaved into the consulting brand in order to make sound decisions.

The Ethical Consultant

Ethics is defined by the convictions that individuals allow to influence their behavior. A consultant’s brand philosophy is synonymous with an ethical code of conduct. If the consultant considers himself/herself a global leader, then they are ethically bound to accommodate the business culture of their domestic and international clients. In 2017, United Airlines faced an ethical dilemma concerning a passenger being mistreated on an overbooked flight. There was a video released that upset consumers worldwide. Oscar Munoz, CEO of United Airlines, released a statement justifying the forceful removal of the passenger. Social media made a host of hashtags, memes and gifs mocking the situation. Moreover, United Airlines unintentionally branded itself as a company that lacked ethics concerning the humane treatment of their passengers. What message did that send to the Chinese diplomat or the Russian investment broker that travels to the United States frequently? Moreover, the demand to train in the area of ethics and diversity will increase in light of situations such as this. This may require the consultant to undo the preconceived notions of American culture or aiding organizations in redefining their core values to reflect their stance on ethics and morality. Moreover, this speaks to the importance of cross-cultural appreciation and in order to service clients of diverse backgrounds, the consultant must develop an appreciation for diversity.

The Culturally Aware Consultant

The beautiful thing about culture is that it has the ability to change without any limits. Cross-cultural awareness involves global leadership, but it also includes the appreciation of cultures within the United States. Dove's recent marketing trend encourages women of all colors, shapes, and sizes to love their body, this directly appeals to the culture of women that feel ostracized because of unspoken beauty standards. Fenty Beauty released 40 shades of foundation to embrace different hues and undertones of women across the racial spectrum, this appeals to individuals who feel like major brands do not embrace their individuality. In addition, Gap is becoming increasingly intentional about embracing diversity and closing the inclusion gap in their ad campaigns, especially in the LGBTQIA community. What do all of these brands have in common? All three brands made diversity a strategy – and not just a value.

The ability to strategize and implement strategies concerning diversity training and cross-cultural appreciation is no a demand on human resources, it is a requirement for consultants. I believe the consultant’s brand should reflect this phrase: one size accommodates all. The goal of the consultant is not to transform a culture to fit the consultant’s level of comfortability, but to expand the strategy of organizations to move from accommodating diverse cultures to appreciating diverse cultures. In addition, consultants may be able to innovate the way an organization perceives culture – by developing a culture. The possibilities are endless, especially in the global context. Communicating diversity requires a language of intentionality that goes beyond the 300 character prose on the first page of the website, it has to been seen in client reviews, graphics, marketing material, presentations and even in the clientele. This requires an authentic concern for diverse culture and the intentionality of a relationship.

In sum, the experience of a global culture is no longer a flight or a cruise away, it’s a simple step out of the front door. To the consultant socially responsible, ethical, and culturally aware consultant, the sky is no longer the limit.

[1] Tannenbaum, Wendy. 2003. "Nike brings commercial speech to Supreme Court." News Media & The Law 27, no. 2: 25.

[2] Kaeb, Caroline. 2008. "Emerging Issues of Human Rights Responsibility in the Extractive and Manufacturing Industries: Patterns and Liability Risks." Journal Of International Human Rights 6, no. 2: 327.

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