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  • Marcelo Lyra: On the Path Toward Rebuilding Reputation

    DATE: 12/07/2017

    Published by: Novonor

    Reputation is the degree of confidence, admiration, and respect different stakeholders have for a company or institution. At a company shaken by a crisis, recovering its reputation requires it to complete different phases, with the “inventory” of credibility before the crisis considered the initial base for planning. This is the path we are currently on at Odebrecht.

    In two recent surveys – by the Institute of Social, Political and Economic Research (IPESPE) and Interbrand – Odebrecht appears as an innovative, dynamic, strong, and sustainable brand. Even when faced with the biggest crisis in its history, the company maintains those attributes that helped it become one of Brazil’s largest companies.

    When seeking out solutions for crisis management, the first focus should be on the impact for the businesses and the disruption caused to clients and society. This is what determines the dose of the remedy to be applied and the intensity of the treatment.

    At Odebrecht, the initial step taken as part of the plan to reconstruct the company’s reputation involved doing its homework. Recognizing the error, apologizing for it, and assuming the commitment to move forward with integrity. Gaining the commitment and engagement of leaders and members to ensure that the transformations are incorporated into the company’s daily routine. Promoting a change that is not merely surface-deep.

    The milestone was the disclosure of the Commitment to Brazil in March 2016, when the company recognized the need to abandon practices that contradicted society’s expectations. Since then, we have worked to implement compliance measures that are aligned with international standards. We created the Global Council, a group of individuals recognized for their work at civil, academic, and private organization, to support the development of the Group’s companies.

    We worked with independent monitors, professionals who follow how well we are fulfilling the commitments assumed in the Leniency Agreement established with authorities in Brazil and the United States. They have free access to the Group’s offices to analyze operations and help implement compliance measures. We improved the Ethics Hotline, which is managed by a specialized, independent company. We began a compliance training program for all members.

    Odebrecht’s communication is based on these changes in the company’s operations. During this initial moment, with the Group’s reputation shaken, we are prioritizing dialogue with employees, opinion shapers, and the press to help promote the perception that we are doing what should be done. We present the progress made in an open and transparent way. Once we have completed this phase, the focus will be on “the right to exist” for the public at large. We will further develop values that were never abandoned by members: technical excellence, innovation, and the capacity to train good professionals.

    At the same time, Odebrecht redefined its brand management strategy: its businesses can study the changes in the brands, aligned with specific needs such as the interests of new partners and investors. This reflects the change in the governance model across the entire Group. The holding will maintain the current brand as part of its role guiding the businesses through policies and by maintaining cultural unity.

    We know that earning back trust and recovering our reputation is a lengthy process. Asking once again for the right to be heard and exist requires, more than anything else, that we are able to prove that the changes are concrete and not just surface-deep. The challenges are big and come daily; and the same applies to the learning. We are merely beginning, but I can assure you that Odebrecht is a new company.

    Marcelo Lyra is the Head of Communication and Sustainability at Odebrecht S.A, and an engineer with graduate degree in General Management from the Harvard Business School.

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