Changing your logo for a week won’t convince customers you’re serious about purpose

Daniel Stone, executive director at Principle Co, explains issuing a press release isn't enough to convince customers that you're serious about purpose.

Most Australian corporates tend to overestimate their involvement in politics, or simply think they’re too peripheral/small to make a really difference on either policy or outcomes.

The reality is that most Australian businesses are capable of having a huge positive impact, and the public is increasingly expecting you to think about social impact when making day-to-day decisions.

Each of these are statements about the social issues of our time – from decisions about how much to pay staff, what choices you make about your supply chain, and whether to stay silent on a social issue.

Your supply chain is no longer free from prying eyes

Whether you like it or not, every organisation is part of the debates of our day, and consumers are increasingly judging you on your actions, not just your words.

That’s never been more true than today. Income inequality is growing across the developed world, and the public are realising that they can’t trust governments and board rooms to go work it out unsupervised. 78% of consumers believe companies should take more action to address the important issues facing society (Annual Study, Global Strategy Group, 2016), and a further 88% agree that corporations have the power (and therefore the responsibility) to influence social change.

People want to participate in this change and they want to make sure you’re doing the right thing – in your supply chain and in society at large. This is an opportunity for brands, as much as it is a risk.

This desire for a change in rules of civic life extends well beyond just the sphere of business. We’ve also seen social movements across the world surge, as seen in the surprise victory of Jacinta Arden in NZ, or the out-of-nowhere performance of Jeremy Corbyn in last year’s UK general election. We’ve also seen the darker side of this, with the election of a populist mad man to the White House, promising simple solutions to big problems.

More and more businesses have begun retooling their models to ensure they deliver a real social benefit.

But for our societies to be stronger, safer and happier, companies need to do more than just add their name to the roster of others supporting a popular cause. Changing your logo for a week, or issuing a press release of support isn’t enough. You need to own a cause that you’re passionate about, and take on the hard work of putting it on the agenda.

Slacktivism is no longer enough

This isn’t just an idea – there are already many of us putting it into action. Australia is leading the way for purposeful business – and we’ve been excited to hear so many great stories over the last three years.

One of the best is Lush Australia, who go well beyond just making bath bombs. They’re leading innovation at every part of their supply chain, from developing products which can be produced in an ethical and sustainable way, ensuring their staff are well paid and supported from the first step of production to the final sale.

They even go a step further, using their profile to leverage change on the issues their customers care about such as people seeking asylum, or to advocate for an inclusive day of national celebration.

Another great story is Australian Organic Food Co, who are pushing our local food industry towards greater sustainability. And it’s couldn’t come soon enough. Did you know Australia is blessed with 53% of the world’s clean farmland? But traditional chemical-heavy farming has been destroying land at a ravenous rate – soil we’ll never be able to return to its natural state. But with a little effort and grit, Australian Organic is proving there is a better way forward.

People across the world have made it clear – companies are a part of our society, and should behave like good citizens. There’s a clear path for those who want to own their responsibility – will you join us?

Daniel Stone is executive director at Principle Co, who were one of the many speakers at Purpose, a conference celebrating brands and social good, which took place yesterday and today.


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