At three very different events over the past month speakers touched on purpose and social responsibility in business, including the role that government, corporates, charity and entrepreneurs can play in driving positive change.
But the volume of words being spoken about the topic far outweighs the actions being taken to change the way that business works. This needs to change and do achieve that, we think there are three critical questions that need to be answered.
Question 1 – how can we ensure that purpose isn’t ‘left’ to marketing?
At a recent Google Firestarters, Jan Gooding, former brand director at Aviva (and latterly global diversity and inclusion director) spoke about a ‘trust crisis’ facing brands but noted that the financial crisis didn’t drive financial services brands out of business. 10 years on from the crisis government regulations have forced businesses to change but there have been relatively few changes in priorities or behaviour driven by brands themselves. Jan challenged the audience to go out and become ‘marketing warriors’ – which has the potential to catalyse positive change.
However the risk of trustworthiness being owned by marketing is that businesses focus on how they look and what they do short term, rather than transforming and prioritizing positive behaviour in in their pursuit of profit. To drive real change we need to build the understanding that purpose is your business, and that there is competitive advantage in being good.
This leads to Question 2 – how can we bring more parties to the table?
At the Inclusive Economy Partnership’s Impact19 Summit we heard from Greg Clarke, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and from large corporates that are working together with entrepreneurs to innovate and create social impact on key issues – such as financial inclusion.
But the participants from the corporate world represented at the summit seemed to be those already actively engaged in and recognised for their efforts to change business and the way it works – Nationwide, Unilever, etc.
That’s not to diminish their trailblazing on issues of equality, inclusivity, sustainability etc in any way, but the potential for real change in business would appear to be dependent on the brands and organisations at the other end of the spectrum getting involved too.
And, Question 3, can we go ‘beyond CSR’ to a place where profit is aligned with positive impact?
At CognitionX earlier this month Joe Cerrell, MD of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation spoke about how their strategy is evolving ahead of the 2030 deadline for the UN’s Global Goals for sustainable development. Joe spoke about a new role for government and private investment in this, and the Foundation’s commitment to providing risk capital for existing innovations from entrepreneurs and established businesses to be adapted or applied in new ways – e.g. on public health projects. This isn’t about corporate philanthropy; it’s about aligning global sustainability goals with the profitable activity of your business. To underline this Joe quoted a colleague as saying ”I don’t want to talk about your CSR – I want to talk about your P&L.”
Answering these questions, and more.
Skating Panda’s purpose is to enable organisations to change today, to change the world tomorrow.
So we’ve decided to invest in a programme of activities in the second half of 2019 to find better answers to these three critical questions (and others) by bringing together our clients and colleagues from across the spectrum of brands, NGO’s, academia and the startup economy so that we can turn a little more talk on the subject into faster, effective actions for change.
Our first event is a round table taking place at the end of August. If you ‘d like to be involved, to meet and learn from a diverse group of people with a common interest in change, and to become a driver of change inside your business then please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org. You are all welcome.