Purpose, and particularly social purpose, has been under the spotlight recently. The last few days, weeks and months have seen key social issues brought front and centre – sparking healthy debate about how the right change can be driven.
Governments are weighing up the value of human lives against rebooting their economies post-lockdown. Politicians are considering how nations can “build back better” by pushing for a green and climate resilient recovery to the looming recession. Thousands of people are taking to the streets to demand an end to racial inequality.
And businesses are wading in on these key issues too – from Nike’s “Don’t do it” campaign to PG Tips and Yorkshire Tea declaring support for anti-racist protests and uniting under #solidaritea. Global technology brands are making their voices heard as well. Amazon, IBM and now Microsoft have banned the police from using their facial recognition software in acknowledgement of the potential racial bias within the technology and called for governments to implement regulations which govern the ethical use of this tech.
Organisations are under increasing pressure today to play their part in building a better future for all. Yet some are understandably sceptical of the weight of any company’s commitment. It isn’t unheard of for organisations to take advantage of a movement without putting their money where their mouth is – from ‘greenwashing’ retailers who leap on the sustainability bandwagon to brands making empty promises on social media.
The concept of corporate social responsibility has existed for years but successful CSR today requires organisations to define, develop and deploy their purpose in a meaningful and effective way – placing it at the heart of their business strategy. In this way, they can not only change the way they are perceived but also make a real impact on today’s social challenges and people’s lives.
The truth is customer and employee expectations have changed. Social purpose is no tick box exercise. An Instagram post or hollow company statement won’t cut it. Businesses need to live and breathe their social purpose if they are to succeed.
Consider Barclays and its defined purpose of creating opportunities to rise. Through initiatives like social business mentoring or its LifeSkills programme, Barclays is taking action – supporting youth employment and social enterprises while remaining consistent and true to its purpose.
Oracle has committed to changing lives through education. However, it has gone beyond donations and public pledges. In addition to setting up initiatives such as Oracle Academy and Oracle Education Foundation, the company went one step further and actually became the first corporation to build a home for a public high school on its campus back in 2018.
Brands need to figure out how to define and live by their social purpose asap if they are to seem credible and genuine. We’re only six months into 2020 but purpose has already stepped into the limelight – enabling some brands to shine while revealing the flimsy nature of some organisations’ purpose-led pledges. As Stephane Kurgan, venture partner at Index Ventures, recently claimed, we’ve entered the decade of purpose. If organisations can get purpose right, the potential benefits to humanity – and their bottom line – are huge.
Are you passionate about clear social purpose within an organisation? Later this year, we’ll be launching research which considers how businesses can actually start operationalising social purpose. If this is close to your heart, let me know as we’d love to discuss purpose with you!
“The past decade was the decade of convenience. The coming decade will be the decade of purpose. The companies that will be formed will have purpose at their core and some of them might make it their business.”