Marketplace Insights: March 2017 edition

The latest news, research and buzz on purpose-driven brands and customer trust from Business in the Community's Marketplace team.

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Is compliance the answer for encouraging more purpose-led business?

A new report from The Big Innovation centre lays out a set of policy recommendations for business to become more purposeful. Heavily governance and compliance led, key recommendation areas cover corporate reporting, executive remuneration, accounting and investment. Interestingly a note from Charles Wookey at Blueprint for Better Business explains that although they were a part of the conversation in developing this report, they don’t necessarily agree that this is the most effective means of advancing this agenda. A belief that real change needs to come from a change of mindset, not through compliance.

Does Oxford University’s Saïd Business School have the answer for CEOs wanting to align purpose and business strategy?

Research from PwC has shown that CEOs are struggling to grasp the capabilities needed to translate purpose into business action. Jonathan Trevor and Barry Varcoe of Oxford University’s Saïd Business School explore the approach of aligning all business pillars; linking purpose with strategy, strategy with organisational capability, capability with resource architecture and resources with management systems. The difficulty lies in the change of behaviours needed to implement such an approach.

Companies looking to use purpose to solely target the social consumer are likely to be disappointed with the results.

Purpose has become a bit of a buzzword in the boardroom, with many brands being quick to jump on the wagon. This article argues that those brands using purpose as an opportunity for commercial benefit shouldn’t count their chickens too soon, with evidence that purpose equals profit minimal. Using Fairtrade as an example, the author questions the impact such an approach has on the consumer – with price and convenience often winning out over social good. Brands that focus solely on increasing their share of wallet are likely to be disappointed, pursuing purpose is much more about the longer term, with complex but valuable benefits to be considered.

Keeping ahead of stakeholder trends


Report outlines stakeholder trends for 2017, and highlights how businesses can stay favourable among stakeholders.

A report from Future500 outlining Stakeholder Engagement Trends of 2017, has highlighted the expectation that business should stake clear public positions on hot political issues, a trend which has already had a huge impact for brands this year. The data also suggested how corporate action will be a major force for advancing solutions to societal and environmental issues, but in order for this to be achieved business must fully own the impacts of their products.

With brands jumping over one another to be seen as driving social good, what can you do to stay authentic and unique?

Brands have cottoned on to the power of aligning themselves with good causes. While positive for the ‘greater good’, this is very much being led by consumer spend and may lose traction if the market becomes awash with inauthentic brand promises. Consumers must continue to push brands to do better to keep business on track. In addition, with so many brands claiming social good it is not enough for a brand to rest on their laurels, they must strive to stay unique and continue to innovate in order to keep customers enticed.

The power of a purposeful culture


What would the takeover of one of our most well-known purpose-driven companies mean for the marketplace?

Those that work in responsible business breathed a sigh of relief following Unilever’s rejection of Kraft Heinz takeover bid. The takeover would have seen a massive clash in culture, with Unilever’s focus on sustainability and Kraft Heinz reputation of cutting costs. However, it’s likely that Kraft Heinz will make a fresh, much bigger bid, in the future which if ever accepted could put the reputation of purpose-driven brands on the line. It is ever more important for the benefits of purpose-driven business models such as Unilever to be brought to life, helping shareholders to see beyond profit.

Do sustainability-led agendas lack buy-in at the top, or is there a communications issue halting progression?

A report from The Drum, Mind the Gap: How Marketers Feel About Sustainability, reveals that marketers are aware of the benefits of a sustainability-led agenda, such as long-term financial gains, strong competitive advantage and boosted brand perception, yet they note key barriers such as absence of management urgency, minimal buy-in from management and costs. However, with 52% of participating marketers stating their companies did not have sustainability strategies, is this truly reflective of the companies they work for, or could there be a wider internal communications issue?

See BITC's Marketplace pages for more on this agenda.