We are on the cusp of a new age driven by the unearthing of a timeless principle that has evaded businesses for decades: purpose.
While the concept seems elusive, it can be defined simply as the deeper meaning behind why we do what we do.
And, as we face unprecedented socio-economic challenges, we know that purposeful businesses will be the ones that survive and thrive in the long term.
We’re living through extraordinarily difficult and uncertain times, and there are no easy solutions to the issues we face. But as business leaders—and as human beings—it’s our job to figure out a path forward and to do so in a way that creates positive change in the world.
While it may be tempting to prioritise quick economic fixes over values, every indicator shows that brands whose purpose persists through these hard times will thrive where others won’t. But it takes courage to put purpose at the centre of your business.
A purpose economy?
We now move toward the age of purpose, where meaning is the most valuable currency.
Simon Sinek most notably introduced this topic in his TED talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” which states that successful companies start with “why” because “people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”
People don’t buy products, they buy feelings. Consumers have begun to use their emotions as filters to make meaningful purchasing decisions.
In the book “The Purpose Economy” by Aaron Hurst, CEO of Imperative, this shift in society is defined as “an economy where value lies in establishing purpose for employees and customers — through serving needs greater than their own, enabling personal growth and building community.”
At Views For Change we have been on this very journey ourselves. We owned and ran marketing agencies before this but always felt like there was something lacking. Following a short series of aligning moments, and conversations with some inspirational people in our network; we realised the missing jigsaw piece was having a clear idea of our (you guessed it!) purpose.
We already had the idea for Views For Change but had been focussing on the work that made the most money. After considerable personal and collective reflection, we defined our purpose and immediately set to bringing our purpose to the world full-time. Some might call it silly; we think it was vital and inevitable.
What’s driving purpose?
A crucial human element is being reincorporated into modern business practices, where previously we were motivated too much by extrinsic factors that inhibited our ability to speak up about our deepest desires. We now have a generation driving this narrative — the millennials.
This generation is not (or much less) motivated by pay raises or getting the next promotion; they care about making an impact each day in everything they do — work, leisure and purchases. They invest in movements and show extreme loyalty to companies whose brand clearly represents values they wish to associate with themselves.
This has been displayed internally initially, with many companies incorporating various cultural changes to support “green” initiatives or participating in volunteer efforts in their communities; cultivating meaning for their employees and customers.
These shifts are now being seen in consumer trends too. In 2020 we live in the fruition of PwC’s predictions from the 2016 World Economic Forum that a demand for purpose in the consumer marketplace will increase by nearly 300% by this year.
There has been a massive shift in public desire around the concept of purpose which is changing why, how and what we buy, and from whom we buy it from, as we speak.
Reap the rewards of purpose
As our great friend, entrepreneur and author Jon Air says in his book Hacado “Don’t Get Another Job: Make Your Purpose Work”: “Excuse me, but if you eat the right things, then poo is the natural output. If you work the right way, then money drops out…” with purpose “you don’t need to sit all day on the toilet…”. And we see this in the resilience and success of purposeful businesses.
The Unilever Group of businesses is a great example with clear and direct comparisons. They report that “In 2018, our 28 Sustainable Living Brands – those taking action to support positive change for people and the planet – grew 69% faster than the rest of our business. That’s up from 46% in 2017. They also delivered 75% of our overall growth.”
Imperative Group Inc.’s work with purpose-driven companies has shown a 400% increase in performance and a 125% increase in productivity from inspired employees.
Purposeful businesses also endure, sustain and thrive longer term; even as we face turbulent socio-economic challenges caused by Brexit and Covid-19 amongst others.
Paul Lindley, Founder of Ella’s Kitchen (a certified B Corp) believes that customer loyalty and affection towards the brand will ensure it continues to thrive, regardless of changing market conditions.
“With all this uncertainty, we will [continue to] have a strong business as long as we focus on the ‘why’ of why we set up the business,” he argues. “What is our mission and how can we try to fulfil that everyday?”
Noting that today’s young ‘millennial’ parents are both time-poor and tech-savvy, he urges marketers to focus on simple messages, delivered in the right context.
“They are incredibly busy people that use mobile for most of their online [activity], and it is a generation that has ethics and values,” he says. “They resonate with brands where values overlap with their own, and they’ll be making some purchase decisions based on their beliefs in the ethics of the company, as much as the belief in the functionality of the product.”
This commitment to purpose can be seen most notably in the the B Corp movement; where a triple bottom line and clear accountability to specific standards for social and environmental performance can really showcase the “why” behind your business.
We know B Corp is a blueprint for purposeful (and sustainable) business; where effective infrastructure and a continuous consideration for the impact your business has in the world is not only great PR but the fundamental tenets of a business that will be supported as consumers demand more from businesses.
A meaningful and tangible commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility is also vital: gaining your business kudos within the B Corp impact assessment but also building strong and loyal relationships with your customers and stakeholders.
In the Views For Change world, our purpose is to create meaningful connections between businesses, charities and people that have a positive impact for all.
Our campaigns enable businesses to enact their purpose by rewarding their audiences with charitable donations on their behalf; to causes the business truly aligns with and cares for.
The benefits of this are immense. Stronger and more meaningful connections with your customers; improved brand positivity and a great way to showcase your values; tangible support of charities that your business cares about; direct impact reporting to avoid ‘purpose-washing’; and ultimately you get to live your purpose in the work you do.