Social responsibility is an increasingly significant issue in the make-up of our leading corporations, but as firms want us to love them for the good they do, how do we assess the quality of their ethical programmes?
Well, that’s where ‘brand purpose’ comes in.
Brand purpose can be a vital tool for companies which are keen to follow through on stated ethical promises, to add meaning to what they do, and to connect with consumers on an emotional level and build trust. It can also be pretty handy when it comes to recruiting new staff; but more of that later.
With so many corporates launching social responsibility campaigns, how does the outsider make an assessment of their worth and quality? Thankfully, a new study has been released this month to help make that evaluation.
The study, part of media consultancy Radley Yeldar’s Fit For Purpose Index, uses 4,600 data points to rank corporate brands on the strength and impact of aims to make a positive difference to society.
The report, which authors call ‘the most extensive review of brand purpose to date’, was devised to make sense of ‘changing expectation for corporate brands to create more than just financial value’.
The Index evaluated companies through external communications across four main areas: purpose and story, communication, performance, and, importantly, behaviour. In essence, the Index makes an assessment on how far company pledges are followed through.
According to the Index, three out of four corporate brands aim to make a difference but, it claims, just 11 per cent prove it convincingly.
Top of the Index was Unilever for its corporate goal to ‘make sustainable living commonplace’. According to Marketing Week, evidence for this exists in projects such as Foundry Ideals, a crowdsourcing platform that ‘looks to solve sustainability issues in areas of sanitation, hygiene, and nutrition’.
Away from the solely ethical dimension, the financial incentives for corporate brand purpose haven’t always convinced every one of their merits, but Unilever’s chief marketing and communications officer, Keith Weed, was reported saying ‘global spending on responsible consumption (RC) products is $400bn (£262bn). In the US, RC products have grown around nine per cent annually in the past three years. For our brands, we outpaced the global average with a ten per cent increase in sales.’
Perhaps more interesting still is that brand purpose is now not only seen as a reputational yardstick, but also as a way to recruit future talent into a business. Unilever is the third most sought-after employer on LinkedIn, with the company claiming that its corporate purpose is the draw behind a significant proportion of its two million annual job applications.
If that wasn’t enough, how about this as a great staff retention incentive: more than 76 per cent of Unilever employees, Marketing Week says, feel they contribute to their employer’s sustainability agenda.
Brand purpose is more than just window dressing. It can also help attract positive commercial feedback, and candidates who share in – and contribute to – the brand’s values. Oh, and it might also help to make the world a better place.