The link between social purpose, the consumer and CEOs

I have just finished reading Edelman’s 2012 ‘goodpurpose’ study, which explores consumer attitudes around social purpose, including their commitment to specific societal issues and their expectations of brands and corporations. The annual study, now in its fifth year, was conducted online in 16 countries with 8,000 consumers.

According to Edelman, Purpose goes beyond the traditional concept of corporate social responsibility and is “a core strategy for profit and growth based on linking an organization’s reason for being to improving lives and impacting society.”  The concept of Purpose is also aligned to authenticity; it’s not about undertaking an initiative because it is a ‘nice to do’. Purpose is about bringing something new to the table to deal with societal issues which, ultimately, has the power to mobilise people. Edelman goes further to state that it is this approach which will enable organisations to earn a “licence to lead”; the basis for building trust with consumers.

Here are some highlights from the study:

  • When quality and price are equal, the most important factor influencing brand choice is Purpose.
  • 47% of global consumers buy brands that support a good cause at least monthly, a 47% increase from 2010.
  • 72% of consumers would recommend a brand that supports a good cause over one that doesn’t; a 39% increase since 2008.
  • 71% of consumers would help a brand promote their products or services if there is a good cause behind them; a growth of 34% since 2008.
  • 73% of consumers would switch brands if a different brand of similar quality supported a good cause; a 9% increase since 2009.

CEOs have a key role to play to ensure that employees and suppliers are actively engaged in the organisation’s Purpose. Before an organisation is able to earn its “license to lead”, consumers must first see the CEO demonstrating the organisation’s Purpose via their own leadership skills, which must be consistent and authentic. This is where work around personal branding for business leaders is useful. Some of the expectations that consumers have regarding the action of CEOs when it comes to Purpose are as follows:

  • 56% believe CEOs should be addressing societal issues by creating innovative products that are socially responsible
  • 55% believe CEOs should make a long-term commitment to address societal issues
  • 55% believe CEOs should be publicly supporting societal issue

The study also points out that more than half of respondents think that CEOs should communicate their efforts to address societal issues. This is where the power of Purpose connects with the power of narrative.

Now more than ever CEOs must harness the power of Purpose in business, making sure it is as much a part of their DNA, as it is for the organisation which they are leading.

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