Q1 has ended and it is newly spring. We are three months into 2019, so we can’t rest on our resolution laurels. It’s time to move from ‘what will I do?’ to ‘what am I doing?’ This is true both in the personal and professional spheres. And so, we, the Purpose Branding team within the Consulting division at Kantar, felt this was a ripe moment to get a real conversation going around brands and positive impact. Our data shows over-performing companies are more likely to be ‘human-centric’. They define their ambitions not by their bottom line, but by the impact they have on people’s lives and on the world around them.
The success of a human-centric strategy isn’t surprising. Consider that 84% of centennials expect companies to take a stand on important social issues and employees are 3 times more likely to stay with a company that embodies a higher purpose. Businesses are finding that by assuming responsibility for social ends, they can build brand love, achieve sustainable top-line growth and become powerful catalysts for positive impact in the world.
So, with this in mind, we invite you to join us in a bit of contemplation: What gets you out of bed in the morning to go to work (or at least to your desk at home)? What do you enjoy most about marketing your brand/company to people? How does what you do change things for the better?
If you are struggling to answer some or all of these questions, it is time for some corporate introspection. Your business could depend on it.
Welcome to Branding for Good: our new blog series to showcase brands that have moved beyond talking about positive brand impact to delivering it.
The logical next question might be: if positive impact brands are winning, what type of positive impact should your business be seeking to make? There is no need to reinvent the wheel. A nearly comprehensive list of human-centered objectives has already been compiled by our world leaders at the UN. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a blueprint for achieving a better future for all. They are a roadmap for positive impact and if you are a business on the planet in 2019, you should be actioning at least some of the SDGs in a tangible, measurable way.
Seventeen is a substantial number. These goals can’t be captured into a sound bite or easily sorted into compact buckets. That is because our world is complex and there is a lot of critical work to be done to improve it. Perhaps even more importantly, we can’t afford to be reductionist with these goals, because each one is inextricably linked to others on the list, just as society’s challenges are intersectional. Eradicating poverty, for example, cannot be achieved without addressing gender inequality, given that single mothers and older women are more likely to be poor than men in the same situations. Nor can we divorce climate action from good health and wellbeing, given that agriculture is a major source of carbon emissions and that the fossil fuels that produce CO2 are also creating toxins that make people sick. Our global ecosystem is, by definition, an interconnected web and it’s undeniable that every business has a positive halo and a negative shadow. Crystal clarity on both is essential to identify and execute a successful brand and business strategy.
Your brand and business are likely interacting with the SDGs in more ways than you might imagine. How might you be negatively impacting the achievement of these goals and what are you going to do about it? Where can you see yourself playing a role in helping to address certain SDGs? This inquiry isn’t just an intellectual exercise. It is both a risk-mitigation obligation and a splendid way to illuminate areas for growth. As marketers, we are often scrambling to find unmet needs for our consumers. The SDGs are a great place to start.
Throughout 2019, we will explore how high-performing companies across industries are actioning on the SDGs through three marketing lenses: brand, innovation and employee wellness. From lesser known start-ups like Managed by Q that invest in W-2 employment over 1099 gig-contractors, to leaders like Unilever whose Sustainable Living Plan identifies concrete objectives to deliver shared prosperity through positive social and planetary impact, there is plenty of fodder for inspiration. We hope to provoke, challenge and ultimately inspire you to take action, seize the opportunity, and build a better business and world for all.
And to ensure we are not just ‘talking,’ we commit to providing pro-bono consulting for 3 promising social impact projects this year and will be soliciting candidate brands and businesses in the month to come.