What Makes a “Purposeful” Business

At long last, consumers are putting their money where their mouth is.

For years we have been saying we want to shop more responsibly and are prepared to pay more to do so, but it finally seems consumers are moving from intention to action. According to the Boston Consulting Group’s 2015 European study, responsible consumption brands have now overtaken ‘conventional’ brands in terms of growth rate.

The opportunity for brands is huge, but it’s not always easy to make this shift. Consumers want brands to behave in a more ethical way, but they equally want this behaviour to be genuine. Businesses that are found to be inauthentically claiming “purpose”, to appear as if they are doing good, will quickly be found out and criticised.

So how can a brand successfully integrate a purpose-driven approach?


Consumers want authenticity. One brand getting this right is Ben & Jerry’s, which partners with local groups to promote awareness of issues it wishes to tackle. For instance, it teamed up with civil rights campaign group Hope Not Hate to encourage Londoners to vote in the most recent mayoral election. You must engage in real change-making.

Clearly communicate your efforts

Brands that claim to be purposeful need to think about backing up their claims with evidence. If brands are committed to trying to have a positive impact on the world, they need to measure their success in doing so. Experts at consultancy Radley Yeldar believe that one key reason why brands such as JP Morgan, WPP and Diageo have lost their places among the top 100 companies for purpose is that they have failed to deliver on pledges. This reality means that brands need to demonstrate their commitment to social purpose over the longer term.


Finally, if brands are to succeed with their social missions, they need everyone – from CEO down – to really believe in what they are trying to achieve. Purpose has to be linked to the history of the business, but also be a focal point for the future. A recent Gallup poll shows that only 13% of employees worldwide are motivated in their work (a depressing number). Having a strong vision and purpose can help create the intrinsic motivation that is necessary for motivating your co-workers. Digging under the skin of a business in this way requires everyone to be onboard, which means tuning into personal values and engagement.


Amber Goodwin

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