The Value of Values

Consideration for one customer's dilemma highlights Netflix's corporate values.

Fast Company has a nifty chart in its March issue, comparing Hulu and Netflix. I read it with interest — my nephews love Hulu — but it would take a lot to lure me away from Netflix. Here’s why:

In 2003, a colleague was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and took immediate medical leave for treatment. In the office, we tried to think of any and all ways we could help: James loved movies, so we signed him up for the biggest monthly package Netflix offered, so he always had a stack of new movies to watch. To our great sorrow, James succumbed to the disease seven months later. When I eventually remembered to cancel the Netflix subscription, the final statement showed that several discs had not been returned.

I couldn’t see calling James’ grieving partner to ask about the DVDs, so I called Netflix to explain why I would need to pay the replacement costs. Their reply was immediate: “Don’t worry about it,” the Netflix representative said. “We’ll take care of it. I’m very sorry for your loss.”

It was an unexpectedly kind response that came at a hard time. And from then on, I began to think about Netflix, not so much as the huge corporation that it is, but as a place where real people, with values I admire, work. Nothing — not even the occasional flurry of bad publicity — has changed my mind about the company in the years since then.

It made me curious about company policy and I wasn’t surprised when I found a slide presentation Netflix CEO and co-founder Reed Hastings created about what he calls Netflix’s “Freedom and Responsibility Culture.” The first of seven points is: “Values are What We Value.”

“Values” could be said to be the tie that binds together the stories in our new “Giving Back” series, which highlights ways that organizations and companies demonstrate their commitment to, not just the bottom line, but to the local and global community. (This month we talked to hotel chefs who had installed beehives on their properties’ roofs, to simultaneously boost the bee population and harvest homegrown honey for their kitchens.)

Know of any interesting or innovative ways that individuals or organizations are giving tangible expression to the greater social good and community and sustainablity? Please share.

Barbara Palmer

Barbara Palmer is senior editor and director of digital content.