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Purpose: Walking the Talk - by Chris Johnson

October 29, 2015 8:25 AM | Deleted user

Purpose: Walking the Talk

How do you engage the axiom, Walking the talk, when it comes to Purpose in your business practice?

Bob Knott, Chair of Business + Social Purpose Practice at Edelman, told us how and why. He shared his passion for social purpose and the data that underscores one of the core tenets of Conscious Capitalism. Namely, that operating with a commitment to Higher Purpose is not only an intuitively great idea, but an essential best practice in business today, “Purpose is not an optional sport anymore.”

Why? Because Purpose gives meaning to the core business. It’s about the difference a business is attempting to make in the world beyond simply maximizing profits.

In our lively, interactive session Bob shared key findings from Edelman’s recent research on Purpose in business. “As a group committed to seeing purpose flourish, we should strive to see more acutely how purpose impacts overall business performance.”

Tuesday, Oct 27 Bob Knott spoke at Conscious Capitalism Chicago event: Purpose – Walking the Talk.

Bob Knott

Chair of Business + Social Purpose Practice, Edleman

As Bob engaged with our questions he shared a set of actions that will serve businesses to build and keep trust, to stay in alignment with a Higher Purpose, these behaviors are intertwined. You can’t do one and not do the others:

  • Solve some of the world’s greatest problems 
  • Behave in ways that shows rigor, self-awareness and authenticity for the long haul
  • Engage in dialogue, be consistent in reporting and tell people how you’re really doing in order to foster collaboration

Big takeaways from Bob and Edelman’s research shared with us at our Conscious Capitalism Chicago event:

Innovation meets Trust

Innovation seems to be a great thing, until it starts causing problems e.g. privacy, environment, security

“People don’t want to work for a great company, but to work for a company that does great things.”  In answer to the question, what drives the increase or decrease of trust in business, survey responses revealed that nearly 1 in 2 highlighted the contribution to a greater good as the reason for an increased level of trust in business, while the converse is also true—a lack of contribution decreases trust in business. In fact, fully 8 of 10 surveyed believe business can make a profit *and* have positive impact.

While consumer intent reflects a strong interest in Purpose, are people really willing to put their money where their mouth is?

Hot-off-the-press data from the Nielson Global Survey of Corporate Social Responsibility indicates that apparently Millennials do, though will this hold up over time as Millennials age, while the rest of us hold varying degrees of skepticism about the purity of business intentions, thereby impacting our trust with them.

Purpose has strong promise – to attract talent, to support a willingness to pay more for purpose goods, resulting in consumers being more likely to develop a relationship with a company’s brand over time.

Yet, consumers aren’t fully convinced.

Less than 1 in 3 believe that business innovations are motivated a desire for personal and societal improvement. In fact, consumers question the motives that drive business to innovate in the first place.

Two in three consumers, 66%, believe that brands are innovating simply to make more money for the company, apparently a universal experience around the globe. Consumers everywhere seem to believe that the real driver behind brand innovation is to make more money, versus having a positive societal impact or solving bigger problems like childhood hunger, climate concerns, food sourcing, etc.

In fact, consumers even tell us they have some real concerns about where innovation is leading us in the future. Innovation seems to be a great thing . . . until it starts causing problems – e.g. issues with privacy, safety and security, and its impact on the environment. Crucially, 87% tell us that because of these concerns, they’re hesitant to trust.

The way forward for business is through building trust.

Engagement, authenticity and integrity were cited as the most important values critical to enhancing trust-business innovations in the marketplace.

Fully, eight in ten consumers want greater transparency, even to the point of asking business to make test results available to view.  They’re looking for academic endorsements, strong clinical trials, beta tests—tests that are done comprehensively and frequently-to ground the belief in businesses espoused Purpose.

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