Today, it’s well understood that without a healthy, sustainable society, we won’t have a world in which to do business. Tomorrow, we hope more companies choose to be heroes. And it starts with purpose. So grab your cape …
With the political world in tumult, businesses are poised to fill void that governments and the public can’t address alone. Increasingly, today’s companies have the ability to lead the way in addressing urgent social and environmental issues.
Brands like Brewdog, Graze, Innocent, Ben & Jerry’s and Patagonia are among those placing ‘social’ at the forefront of their business —putting purpose alongside, or even ahead of, profit.
The purpose of a business is no longer to just to serve shareholders, but also employees, communities, and society at large. This is why we’ve seen a flood of companies working to adopt, evolve, or enhance their purpose beyond profits. Registering as B-Corps, considering co-operative principles and governance and so much more.
As a collective of business leaders we need to invest in a new wave of capitalism, one that places the value of people and the environment on par with profit.
Purpose is difficult to get right, and easy to get wrong. As more companies pursue purpose, not all will do so authentically. The biggest mistake? Rushing the process, so whatever you do, make purpose a long-term commitment, that creates value for everyone.
Understand your brand
Companies that take the time to deeply understand their DNA, their brand and how they fit with society and build purpose-led strategies into their operations are much more likely to win over consumers. You need to strategically identify an authentic purpose and don’t be too quick to find the answers. The last thing you want to happen is to be seen to be purpose washing.
As the adoption of purpose grows, it can be challenging for brands to stand out—and consumers are getting purpose fatigue. They aren’t as quick to trust claims of social responsibility, and can sense inauthenticity.
Millennials and Gen Z, are educating themselves on what it means to be a purpose-driven company, They research how products are made, how employees are treated, what the supply chain looks like, and weigh these options against price and convenience. They also seek out the good businesses to work for too, and share that information with their networks.
Companies that link purpose to their employer brand strategy will attract and retain the strongest talent. Employees are now gravitating towards companies with a greater purpose than ‘show up and work hard.’ Many will even consider a pay cut to work for a purpose-led company.
Consumers today want brands to take a stand on issues that matter. So to win with a rising generation whose values are shaping the future of our world, brands must prove their purpose not only by speaking out on society’s most crucial issues, but by actively standing up for those previously ignored by our society and taking more accountability for the challenges we all face. Consumers are looking for brands that align with their own values.
Added to this consumers are looking to companies to play a leading role in developing and implementing solutions,
So how to communicate it?
Being heard above the noise will be one of the biggest challenges As more businesses seek to become purpose driven business. Communicating that the purpose initiatives being pursued are meaningful, urgent, and designed to have real impact on people and the planet will be what breaks through the noise.
Video, AR/VR, long-form branded content, user-generated storytelling, and experiential activations are likely the most popular mediums to be used. Social media obviously playing a big part in this.
By collaborating and inviting society into their story, companies can spark a movement greater than their own brand.
Collaborating is the way forward
No company exists in a silo. There are ever-expanding opportunities to partner with various organisations to develop purpose, tap external expertise, raise funds, and spur grassroots activation.
Brands are collaborating with competitors more than ever for collective action to address global issues and improve industry standards. It’s about creating systemic and meaningful change, we just need to look at the B-Corp movement for evidence of this.
Companies are also partnering with NGOs in increasingly innovative ways. Rather than just donating sums of cash, companies are finding values-aligned partners and collaborating on solutions.
Can Business be the hero?
The evolution of social impact from a “nice-to-have” philanthropic function to a true purpose-at-the-center model has the potential to solve societies challenges both of today and tomorrow.
As more companies take this approach and commit to long-term positive purposeful impact, we will begin to see a change in both the role business plays in a prosperous society and the way that citizens interact with the brands they know and love. The better business act, B-Corp accreditation, adopting values more aligned with that if the co-operative movement and by collaborating together are just some ways we can make this happen.
So grab your cape and get in touch if you want to know more about how to be a better business.