The ins and outs of purpose-driven business

Ronelle BesterInsightLeave a Comment

Purpose. It’s a buzzword in business these days. Yet, it’s one of the trends that hold a lot of value and opportunity beyond the hype.

In 2018, Accenture found that, globally, 64% of consumers are more attracted to brands that actively communicate their purpose. Their study also showed that 62% of consumers want businesses to take a stand on issues that they are passionate about.

But what does “purpose-driven business” actually mean. What does it look like? And, how do you implement it?

Understanding purpose-driven business

Although society has come a long way, there are many socio-political issues that must be resolved. Women face discrimination, systemic racism still prevails, and the planet gets warmer and more damaged as the years go by.

Fixing these issues requires power and resources. And, businesses have this power and the resources needed. In fact, according to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, business replaces governments as most trusted institution and seen as more than twice as competent.

Business leaders have an obligation to use their power and influence to advocate for positive change in society. Businesses must be working toward something bigger. This goes further than corporate social responsibility. It should be the core of why your business exists.

Building your business from purpose

According to Ipsos, 67% of people around the world agree that it is now more important than ever that the brands they choose make a positive contribution to society, beyond just providing a great product. Yet, many companies still put off purpose. In most cases, businesses argue that purpose-driven products cost more and thus are less likely to be bought. This is proven to be untrue though.

In fact, purpose benefits both society and your business. Purpose-driven businesses are proven to have higher productivity and growth rates, and a more satisfied workforce. Unilever’s purpose-driven brands have grown 69% faster than the rest of the business and with higher margins.

So where do you start on your journey of purpose? Here are a few tips:

  1. Look at your mission statement and decide on what your overall purpose is. Be authentic about it.
  2. Get buy-in from leadership. From your purpose must be build into the corporate agenda.
  3. Create a plan that includes specific and quantitative objectives.
  4. Communicate your plan and intentions. Make your purpose known.
  5. When making decisions, consider the humans impacted by the choices you make.
  6. Do more than make statements. You must take action.
  7. Team up with other businesses or organisations to ensure impact.
  8. Consistently report on your progress.
  9. Take inspiration from those that have done it well.

Avoiding blunders on the purposeful path

Purpose-driven business can easily be misperceived if you do it wrong. What happens if you misstep?

People might think that you’re “greenwashing”, for example. In other words, they may think that you’re using your efforts toward positive impact as a marketing tactic.

Another less-than-favourable outcome of misinterpreted purpose driven business is the perception that you are virtue signalling. This means that people will think you are publicly expressing opinions to show your “moral correctness”, with no other goal. It comes off as a superiority complex.

This will result in loss of trust in your brand. So, you have to be very careful when it comes to purpose.

To avoid being perceived like this, you should not discuss your purpose in a self-interested way. Let’s say your company does a beach clean up once a month. Don’t get on social media and talk about the number of hours you spent cleaning. Rather, use your platform to celebrate the impact that was made for the environment or the animals.

Also, if you aren’t really doing anything toward a cause then refrain from jumping on the bandwagon. If your company is talking about empowering women online, be sure that you’re doing it in real life.

You should also avoid a focus on product when talking about purpose. It takes away from the issue at hand, and makes it look like you’re just trying to sell.

Finally, remember you are working with serious matters. This is not the space for publicity stunts. Burger King’s failed mental health awareness campaign is a great example of why this doesn’t work. You don’t want to come across as tone-deaf. Your efforts to help should not be a PR gimmick.

Bringing it all together

The world is still a tough place, despite all the good that is being done. But your business can and should help make it better, even in the smallest of ways. Not only do people expect this, but you and your business will be better off participating.

As some have said, the revolution is going mainstream. And, for mainstream success you should be part of the revolution.



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