Communications in a New Cuba: Rum, Cigars and Corporate Responsibility

150720_cuba_us_embassy_lgYou probably know that U.S. relations with Cuba are on better terms than they have been in decades. In fact, today marks the official opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Havana.

This is important for many reasons: Cubans are closer to reconnecting with the wider world, and the world is closer to tapping in to 11 million people ready to buy stuff that they never could before. This is not to say that Cubans don’t know what a Big Mac* is, but in the near future, they may be granted access to spend their hard-earned pesos on the American classic. The opportunities for growth are immense to say the least, but how do the world’s largest mega corporations, like a McDonald’s, or even a smaller business come to plant their American flags in Cuba’s white sand beaches? Corporate responsibility… In order for these businesses to really make a case for their Cuban operations (facilities and a native workforce, they’re going to have to earn it.

In order for these businesses to really make a case for their Cuban operations (facilities and a native workforce), they’re going to have to earn it. Businesses are going to have to prove to the people of Cuba that there’s something in it for them past a capital interest.


Corporate responsibility isn’t just some Coca-Cola “We are the World” idea, but a proven, worthy endeavor for businesses to undertake. According to Nielsen, 55 percent of global online consumers across 60 countries say they are willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact. This also would seem to be the same thought process for the new workforce that will inevitably be the population residing in Cuba currently. According to a 2012 Reputation Institute study on global workforce, 78 percent of employees would rather work for an ethical and reputable company than receive a higher salary.

Taking all this into consideration, there are steps to corporate responsibility:

  1. Identify what’s important to your key stakeholders and the communities where you do business. Successful programs are grounded in research.
  2. Clearly articulate your program’s vision and mission. Make sure your approach is highly focused and differentiates you from your peers/ competitors.
  3. Align your corporate responsibility vision, mission and goals with your overall business objectives.
  4. Seek support of leadership and identify company leaders as spokespeople and “owners” for your corporate responsibility programs.
  5. Walk the walk before you talk the talk. Make sure your corporate culture supports your corporate responsibility efforts, and look for opportunities to engage your employees.
  6. Include quantifiable objectives and accountability measures in your corporate responsibility plan.
  7. Be patient. Effective corporate responsibility programs take time, resources, discipline and oversight. It’s important to be patient and stay the course.

Even with a fresh base of 11 million potential customers, you have to put in the work. Smart corporations interested in having a presence in Cuba will take the time to learn the communities, gain an understanding of what’s important to them and show support in a meaningful way.

 *Technically speaking, there is one McDonald’s in Cuba

Sources: 2012 Global Workforce Study2. 2013 CSR RepTrak® 100 Study, Nielsen 

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