Author: Brittany Hill

In February of this year, we penned a blog about what we expected to see from Profit-Purpose Partnerships in 2020.  We stated, “Given the rising tide of purpose-driven companies, longstanding nonprofit collaborations and heightened demand by new generations to make the world a better place quickly, 2020 is poised to be a big year for us all in the social impact industry.”

Little did we know that this year would indeed live up to the seismic year we anticipated – just for different reasons.  A global pandemic, civil unrest, and heightened racial tension continued natural disasters, and, oh yeah, that recession we were expecting is finally here.  Despite the immense personal and economic hardship, Corporate America has stepped up in a big way this year!

Corporate giving accounted for nearly 2/3 of COVID-19 philanthropic funding at nearly $7.9 billion. (Philanthropy And COVID-19 In The First Half Of 2020)


We stated earlier this year that “we will look back on 2020 as the year we embraced the 4th Industrial Revolution, used technology to make Purpose more interactive and personal, and experimented with new and evolved business models.”  We’re also finding that this is the year companies are re-evaluating or defining their purpose.  With new social issues demanding a heightened sense of urgency, and a continued responsibility by corporations to step up, speak up, and do something to change our world, legacy brands and rising startups alike are feverishly in search of their purpose in today’s world and for the long haul.

68% of companies have funded new nonprofits this year, while 60% of them are looking for new social issues to support in their new fiscal year.  (COVID-19 Impact on CSR, Rocket Social Impact, ACCP – May 2020)

For brands looking to (re)define their purpose, consider these critical steps:

1) Identify What Is Important to Your Consumers.

Plain and simple, your consumers’ values and social purpose affinities should drive your brand’s purpose decision-making.  It makes good sense to create a stronger alignment between brand and consumer and will drive profitability.

72% of consumers say they feel it is more important than ever that the companies they buy from reflecting their values.  (2019 Porter Novelli/Cone Purpose Biometrics Study)


86% of consumers say they’re likely to purchase from purpose-driven companies. (2019 Porter Novelli/Cone Purpose Biometrics Study)



2) Consider Your Employee’s Interests.

Employees are the backbone of your company and are now choosing their employer based on its’ purpose-driven activities.  People want to work for a company that has and gives them purpose.  Aligning stakeholder values with your brands is critical but understanding how and why those employees want to engage with certain social issues will help build long-term employer confidence, trust, satisfaction, and greater productivity.

Organizations with higher than average employee engagement have been known to exceed the financial performance of their peers by 73%.  (University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School)

An employee who feels engaged and inspired is 125% more productive than the satisfied staffer. (Bain & Company)


3) Stay True to Your Brand Values and Innate Impact. 

In today’s environment, it may be tempting for a brand to become a bandwagon fan of the social issue of the moment.  You may feel pressured or influenced by media headlines to speak up and out.  Finding your brand purpose starts with really understanding what kind of values your brand evokes – should it be innovation, value, or diversity, for example.  Pair these values with areas where your expertise, technology, and workforce can actually impact change.  We call this your “innate impact”. Is sustainable food sourcing right up your alley?  Can you help expand technology access to underserved communities?  Do you have transportation capabilities to bring cancer patients to/from treatments?


4) Integrate Market Sentiment.

While blindly following a social impact trend is never advised, considering how the general population feels about a certain social issue should be part of your assessment process.  Keep your finger on the pulse of general zeitgeist, opinion, and how sociopolitical and economic influences drive sentiment – either through simple media sentiment tracking or curated industry research.



5) Assess Your Company’s Proclivity for Risk.

A brand’s internal culture and ability to implement its social commitments are the backbone of a brand’s purpose.  If your company or executive team does not have the ability or interest in leading a conversation about gun control, for example, your brand purpose should not be tethered to this issue.  On the other hand, if your company is more inclined to weather potential backlash about a social stance, its social risk proclivity may be moderate-high and offer more leniency for alignment.

As we outlined earlier this year, in the Chinese Horoscope, 2020 is the year of the Metal Rat.  Apparently, this year is to be marked by radical positions and choices.  What radical position or choice will your brand make when it comes to finding its purpose in 2020 and beyond?

Register for our webinar on Wednesday, November 18th, as Brittany Hill and guest CSR thought-leaders share strategies for future-proofing your purpose-driven partnerships!

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