Social purpose; it’s the glamorous new term for Corporate Social Responsibility that’s been strutting around the internet all year. And all because businesses have lost their way in understanding the importance of that key word - purpose.
CSR was originally formed to improve a businesses engagement with society, but as Lord Brown, the former BP CEO has said, “it has become a sticking plaster over a company’s issues and an afterthought for the board on a Friday afternoon.”
But social purpose is more than a box ticking exercise to make you look like a ‘do-gooder’.
As well as research by Harvard Business School confirming that ‘Investments in sustainability issues are shareholder-value enhancing’, studies by Nielsen have revealed that consumers are willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact.
If that’s not got you thinking, here are five reasons your business needs a social purpose.
Without a purpose your workforce is disengaged. Meaning your retention will suffer, along with your reputation as a business to work for.
A survey from Deloitte found that 73% of employees that work at a purpose-driven company, feel engaged. They determine purpose as “an important objective that creates a meaningful impact for everyone.”
If their company has a purpose, they’re invested in their work.
However, it’s not as simple as picking a charity at random and pushing the team to take part in the local half marathon.
Your business purpose has to be ingrained in the company, and made clear to employees within the organisation, so that it is reflected throughout all business practices.
Purpose on it’s own may not directly impact employee engagement, but heightening employees interest in your core values can secure their commitment, and give them the knowledge that their job is more meaningful than they may realise.
After all, purposes are subjective, and what may matter to the company, may not matter to everyone else. So educate them on why they matter.
Consumers can see through your insincere attempt to appear to be doing good.
In fact, look around the internet and you can spot those brands a mile off who are putting PR over purpose.
It’s a thin line to tread when it comes to social purpose, and if it isn’t authentic and ingrained to your businesses core values, you look untrustworthy.
Yes, social purpose will boost your business, but you should be looking at how your business can make a positive change to the world without putting profit first.
Consumers have become increasingly conscious of the impact that their actions and purchases have on the wider world, research by Cone Communications showed 90% of shoppers are likely to switch to brands that support a good cause.
Give consumers a reason to believe in you, and in return they will feel as though they are taking part in your purpose whenever they do business with you. It’s the psychological action of positivity by association.
Social purpose is being bred into savvy start-ups across the UK as a new generation of businesses are brought up with the importance of doing more than just business.
On the other side, large corporate brands struggle with the concept, and find it a challenge to shift their rigid business practices to one that looks outside of itself.
If the social purpose is not linked to the company’s overall strategy, it loses support both internally and externally.
A great example of a brand getting it right is tech giant Microsoft.
They worked alongside the BBC to develop ‘Micro:bit’, a pocket sized, code-able computer which is being given to every year seven pupil in the UK to encourage digital creativity.
Microsoft knows that social purpose matters, and by empowering people to use its products they can play their part in filling the skills gap. This pledge to the future enables Microsoft to remain competitive, and cements them as industry experts to the tech workforce of tomorrow.
Growth & Innovation
By engaging in a social purpose, your company can learn more about your customers, industry and products.
When you delve into issues facing your community or your customers, you can gain insights into how to develop your business and make an impact. This can lead to new products being designed, new initiatives being introduced and possible collaborations with other brands. As you become more engaged in your purpose, your brand reputation will also grow, and this can lead to investment from those looking to add an innovative company to their portfolio.
‘Impact investing’ is growing dramatically, meaning that if your business is strong, and can show the results of social purpose, there is a pool of financial investors waiting to jump on board.
Social purpose is as important as any other business strategy, but it has to have longevity and evolve. It may sound vulgar, but helping customers improve their lives can have a positive impact on a businesses commercial goals.
Whether you adopt something locally or nationally, the impact of your support can inspire others, highlighting a cause that isn’t being addressed.
Putting business profit and reputation first may always be at the forefront for many, but there are a number of brands who have managed to make their purpose matter.
The Co-operative Group have remained authentic to their fair trade roots and have not faltered since their inception in 1844.
“We ensure that our range relates to our social purpose. We don’t start from a place of marketing initiative or CSR angle. We believe in finding a better way to do business”, comments Helen Carroll, head of brand.
Social purpose isn’t a philosophy or a mission statement, its actions speak louder than words.
It’s not a trend or fad to follow when you’re looking to gain a little good PR or boost profits, it’s the very heart of your business.
So how does your business contribute to society?
By Lizzie Benton, content marketing manager, Datify