I recently attended a panel discussion on brand activism. A VP from a big multinational was talking about a force for good as a force for growth. A snazzy way of saying that purpose is a driver for growth, a positive notion that is catching on more and more in the corporate world.
I was somewhat disillusioned when, a couple of weeks later, I heard that they had changed the order round to be a force for growth as a force for good. Whilst it may seem like a small change, something wasn’t sitting quite right.
This sense of disillusionment stayed with me for a few days until I started to get to the bottom of what was making me feel so uncomfortable.
Brands have a huge opportunity ahead
In a world where resources are limited and the planet is crying out for us to change the economy (urgently please!), most of the corporate world is still operating in a capitalist model where growth is the ultimate measure of success.
We face the impact of the climate crisis, social and political unrest and widening inequalities in our daily lives. ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) measures and policies are being forced onto companies, whether they like it or not. Brands are being pushed to take a stand on major global issues which are outside of their control. And yet, the chase for growth continues.
I truly believe that, despite the unprecedented challenges the planet is facing, the business world has a huge opportunity ahead. It is time to wake up and see that the innovation, speed, manpower and global impact brought by global brands can be the answer to forging our way to a brighter future.
Trailblazer brands are leading the way
Brands such as Patagonia are already leading the way. Their successful business is not based on growth at all costs. Yes, they sell products (successfully), but they do so much more than that. They encourage a circular economy through lifetime free repairs and a secondhand market (wornwear.com). They take a stand for what they believe in and have even been known to sue the US President and pull out of states where they were not aligned with the local legislation.
Another trailblazer in the fashion industry is high-end department store, Selfridges. For the past decade, they have been shifting their business model from luxury consumption to luxury services, including rentals, repairs, secondhand and entertainment.
Brands must shift from selling products to becoming true leaders
Brands that will win in this new world are no longer those that focus on the short-term sugar rush of growth and shareholder return, but those that see purpose as the change they want to lead in the world. Brands must shift from selling products to becoming true leaders for the stand they take. They can then lead the evolution of society towards a new mindset of consumption.
Transitioning to a new world cannot happen overnight but setting metrics which are about more than sales growth is a great first step.
What will your legacy be?
What do you want your legacy to be? What stories will you tell your grandchildren about your career? Will it be that you successfully drove growth and got promoted or that you were the one to take a stand? The one that led the shift in the mindset to innovate towards new models and systems. That, thanks to you, your business is no longer drawing resources without giving back, but is positively contributing to society and planet and leading the way to a more sustainable economy.
I know which story I want to be able to tell. I am hoping you do too.
#netpositive #neweconomy #purpose #brandbuilding #sustainability #circulareconomy