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  • Carolyn Butler-Madden

5 drivers behind the social purpose movement & why brands can't afford to ignore them

This article originally featured in B&T Magazine. Read the original article here...


COVID-19 forced unimagined changes to our lifestyles and accelerated the adoption of new, more flexible ways of working. It also accelerated the movement of social purpose-led business; driven by a recognition that governments alone, cannot solve society’s most pressing challenges. While the pandemic hastened the pace of change, this movement was already underway pre-pandemic. To understand why business leaders cannot afford to ignore the demand for businesses to adopt a social purpose, we need to examine the drivers behind it. There are five key drivers inspiring the social purpose movement:


Driver #1: Society needs it


Society is facing enormous challenges, impacting people globally and exposing deep societal needs. We see the impact of climate change and COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc. The Russian attack on Ukraine has created a refugee crisis of enormous consequences, destabilising Europe and the wider world. Increasing levels of income inequality expose deep inequities not just between nations, but also within nations. These are large issues needing solutions, but there are many more. Businesses seeking to identify needs that they can serve don’t need to look far. A great source of reference to understand these issues is the Global Goals. These seventeen goals define society’s most critical challenges. The opportunity for business is to innovate to develop ways to serve them profitably.


Driver #2: Societal leadership is now a core expectation of business


With governments proving themselves incapable of moving us towards a path of sustainability and equity, people are now looking to business for leadership. The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that business is the only trusted institution, while NGO’s, Government and Media fall into neutral Trust territory. Crucially, societal leadership is now seen as a core business function amongst all stakeholders – consumers, employees and investors.


Driver #3: Businesses need to build trust


The expanded mandate of business to make a stand on societal issues and to take the lead on change, provides businesses with an opportunity to build trust. Trust gains since the pandemic suggest that the public responded positively to the many positive stories of actions by business to roll their sleeves up to help. Businesses that adopt societal leadership as a strategic imperative will continue to build trust from employees, consumers and investors and secure the benefits that come with it.


Driver #4: Meaningful work benefits everyone


In Australia’s first Meaningful Work Survey, Leadership, Culture and Purpose ranked as the most important contributors to meaningful work. Unsurprisingly, these are all intrinsically interlinked. Now consider what happens when people are engaged in meaningful work, driven by the pride they feel in working for a company with true leadership, a positive culture and engaged in work delivering meaningful impact to society. Employees feel a sense of fulfilment and self-worth, becoming emotionally invested in their work. This creates a powerful ripple effect, reaching recipients of the social impact the business creates and beyond. A happy fulfilled employee impacts positively on the business itself, colleagues, family, friends and the wider community. This positive energy benefits everyone, not just the individual engaged in meaningful work.


Driver #5: It makes good business sense


There is a growing body of credible evidence that shows social purpose is a strong driver of business success. Purposeful businesses financially outperform their counterparts, because their people are more engaged, the organisations more agile and, because there are higher levels of trust and loyalty in purposeful companies, they are more resilient when the going gets tough.


Social purpose is not just a passing trend, it is now the expectation of every business.



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