5 inspiring examples of brands driving positive social impact and doing purposeful business well
October 20, 2020
It’s fast becoming a core requirement of every brand that wants to survive and thrive. The ‘P’ word used to be just profit. Whilst that hasn’t gone away, purpose is now the strategy that not only helps organisations communicate and grow, but also grounds them solidly around societal good, in a way that’s aligned to core business activity.
At a time of unique challenges, this may all seem like a lot to deliver. The benefits of purpose are clear, and the noise of brands showing commitment, rising to the occasion and taking greater responsibility is becoming louder. But delivering and communicating purpose effectively is still a holy grail, and getting it right is critical.
Here’s a roundup of just five recent examples – along with thoughts on how they are getting it right.
1. Launching an initiative aligned with your purpose to raise awareness of what matters to you
Pangaia is an organisation with purpose at its heart, with its function as a collective of scientists, designers, thinkers and creators creating essential products using innovative tech and bio-engineered materials.
So, its latest initiative, celebrating the 5th anniversary of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by issuing a limited capsule clothing collection feels like an authentic move.
After all, the brand itself is based around social justice and climate action, and by walking the walk, Pangaia is able to use the collection to raise both awareness of the SDGs – and their own business – in a way that feels genuine and meaningful.
Whilst other clothing collections from more mainstream brands can fall into the dangerous trap of ‘purpose-washing’ if they don’t accurately reflect the true business model of an organisation, Pangaia can shout about this because they themselves aim to have a fully inclusive and holistic approach to sustainability.
There is sense that they are allowed to mark this milestone and celebrate it fully. So how can other, more mainstream clothing brands respond?
Customers appreciate that not all brands have purpose at the heart of their founding message.
But communications and initiatives that reflect intent will go far. Safe to say, other clothing brands attempting to follow bold moves like this could be on shakier ground.
2. Committing to greener habits
Keeping relevant sustainability as an ongoing theme, Gym Marine Yachts and Interiors show us that you don’t have to be huge or innately purposeful to get it right – as long as the message is relevant and the actions attainable.
As a company aligned with the leisure industry with vast amounts of team travel taken pre – pandemic, it made sense for Gym Marine to commit to cleaning up its global footprint.
By framing this as a brand initiative called the ‘Green Wings Challenge’ Managing Director Edward Thomas also encourages his fellow Yacht Industry CEOs to sign up, join him and do the same.
A desire to collaborate across the sector to drive change is a key part of the success of this message. There’s an authentic sense of a higher purpose, and the company gives clear instructions in video comms on how it’s done. This positions Gym Marine as a leader, ahead of its game. It’s taken a simple carbon offset process and owned it. Reporting back tangible results. One positive initiative to come from the greater headspace afforded to teams such as these during lockdown.
3. Using business to serve a greater good
Sticking with the beleaguered travel industry, and airlines specifically, there’s already a sense of those who have stepped up during the pandemic and used their core business to the greater good. At a time of extreme challenge and a temptation to hunker down and ride out the crisis, commentary is already noting which airlines broke the mould and stepped up regardless.
Vietnamese Airlines is just one of those which has been recognised by its country as taking real, positive action, arranging flights to repatriate nationals, including the vulnerable and elderly.
Whilst there’s no doubt that altruism wasn’t the exclusive aim – repatriation flights are paid for – a sense of the brand supporting the government’s efforts to help its people and working in a purposeful partnership has allowed it to talk of its actions as ‘providing a sense of achievement that Vietnam is progressive, innovative, modern and competitive’. Proof that business innovation and purpose don’t have to collide.
That it’s important to continue to communicate with stakeholders whilst being socially active to cement the success of your brand.
4. Partnering for success
Partnerships have long been a way organisations can create impact through the traditional CSR route. In the brave new world of purpose, it’s no longer enough to only fund and involve staff in well-meaning but less relevant projects, however.
The key message behind Johnson & Johnson’s collaboration with Mental Health UK to support mental health delivery in parts of the UK aligns with its core business pledge to ‘change the trajectory of health for humanity’. It’s meaningful and practical action, using the expertise of its charity partner whilst supporting core community health services to make a difference.
5. Communicating honestly and with authenticity
We end with a higher profile purpose change, and the recent news from Mars that it is changing the branding on its race to Ben’s Original, as well as losing its traditional photo image from its packaging.
It was a risky move, leaving the company vulnerable to accusations of jumping on a bandwagon. What saved it was the authentic and honest communications behind the change.
By acknowledging up front that not all would agree with the move, but by also framing it around how the brand has listened to feedback, the change is positioned as an act of genuine good faith in response to contemporary thought.
By giving a commitment to act quickly, and including a broader promise to ‘walk the walk’ beyond the packaging change, to ‘a new purpose to create opportunities to give everybody a seat at the table’ through initiatives through community outreach programmes and opportunities for culinary entrepreneurs, Mars’ actions become truly meaningful. One way of moving forwards with purpose no matter what your starting point.