by Jocelyne Daw.
The last few years have seen a huge increase in purposeful brands that not only look to improve their bottom line, but the community as well. Whether its in the form of a social enterprise, B-corp, or simply a company that has chosen to highlight their true purpose, this is a very exciting trend that will continue to change the way business operates in community. When your brand leads with purpose you foster positive conversations, deeper connections, more sustainable revenue and greater impact.What is your social purpose? Leading companies are thinking more holistically about their approach to community work to meet the growing expectations of key stakeholders. There is an urgent need for action on social issues such as education, health and wellness, economic development and more – that affect us all. It is going to require the combined resources, ingenuity and sweat equity of business, government, nonprofits and citizens. The critical issues of our time are far too complex and significant for any single entity to address alone.So what does this mean for your company’s community investment program? It means leading with purpose. Companies are looking at their community investment as a way to truly improve social conditions and make a fundamental difference in the community. They’re moving away from an approach that we call “sprinkling pixie dust” to a variety of good causes, to really standing for a purpose that ties in to the business in a meaningful way. They are infusing a social purpose into their community investment strategies to make a stronger connection and impact on people, the company and the community.According to the 2010 Edelman Good Purpose survey, “purpose allows brands to have a deeper level of engagement with their consumer — and it also allows consumers to put their own mark on brand marketing by collaborating with brands to tackle important social issues.”Every brand’s purpose is unique, but it always boils down to what connects the brand and its consumer and key stakeholders – inside and outside of the company. So where do begin? How do you build a social purpose brand strategy that resonates with your stakeholders - that becomes a shared purpose? A strong strategy is built from the inside out. It starts with deep introspection and understanding of who you are as a company, what you stand for and where your strengths and leadership position could drive impact. How do you deliver the ideas, experiences and opportunities to address the social issues that matter most to a company and its core constituents?Authentic: Social purpose brands must be authentic and true to the core values of the company’s brand. Companies are looking beyond traditional corporate community investment programs in which they simply donate money to a good cause. The Edelman study notes, 66 percent of people believe that it’s no longer enough for corporations to merely give money away, but that they must integrate good causes into their day-to-day business.Focused: In traditional CI money is handed out to many organizations based on a company’s pillars. In many cases the pillars are not clearly defined with a specific focus and clear outcomes. As such almost any application can fit, leading to an array of disjointed program support that rarely deliver the kind of impact expected today.Leading CI programs have clearly defined values reflecting who they are and what they stand for. They focus each pillars around a higher social purpose and specific outcomes they seek. It puts its efforts on critical community issues where the company can make the maximum impact. It finds the right organizations, acts as a partner to leverage internal resources and brings like organizations together to advance even higher impact and increase credibility and capacity. Stand out CI programs have a sense of purpose that drives passion and empowers it to activate mutually positive social change for people, companies and communities.Aligned: In traditional approaches, the CI team is singularly responsible for the program. While they are critical in shaping it, all-out efforts has to be made to ensure the program aligns with the company’s brand and business strategy. The best outcomes are delivered by aligning with a company’s core competencies and business strengths. This ensures cohesion and operational effectiveness from plant to the board. Leading CI programs make a concerted effort to break down internal silos and bring the organization together around shared needs, values and commitments. Engaging: Success is built from the inside-out. Employees must be truly engaged and feel that they are part of making a difference in the community. Rather than the traditional programs that give employees disparate volunteer opportunities that are disconnected to their every day work, a stand out social purpose brand spends as much time engaging internal communities around what they stand for. It creates pride and a sense of ownership. As well, employee engagement brings skills to partnerships and makes them both more cost effective and mutually beneficial.Differentiator: In this increasingly crowded marketplace, a social purpose (done well and with true commitment) can distinguish a company and their products and help them stand out in the marketplace as a preferred corporate citizen and in the workplace as a good place to work. Today, employee attraction, retention and morale are strengthened by meaningful CSR.Measurable: It’s not good enough any more to give out money and hope that it makes a difference. Using measurement after-the-fact as an accountability or compliance tool will never deliver breakthrough results. The most successful initiatives build measurement at the front-end. They use measurement as a way to drive strategy, and continuously monitor results along the way. - More on how to incorporate measurement in an upcoming blog post.Taking a meaningful stand creates a bond and inspires passion. Purpose and passion drive results. Companies need to find and express the social purpose behind their brand that today’s socially conscious employees, stakeholders and citizens are looking for. They need to use it as an opportunity to develop inspiring community investment strategies that create positive social change and meaningful connections for people inside and outside the organization.Gone are the days where profit and purpose were mutually exclusive. Today leading companies are defining and delivering on their social purpose. I believe a social “purpose” must now be engrained into the core of a company’s brand, strategy and culture if they are to strengthen trust and loyalty, fulfill their business goals and achieve sustainable profitability.The next generation of CSR and community investment is moving from an innovative new concept towards the potential for positive social change. What will your social purpose be?