We have never lived in a more exciting time for purpose. The rise of social impact brands is transforming the landscape of business, with consumers increasingly looking for brands who put purpose before profit and align with the values and issues that matter most to them.
The Trust Barometer reports that “80% of consumers agree that a business must play a role in addressing societal issues”, and everywhere you look brands are incorporating impact into their products and businesses – from coffee to lipstick and everything in between. Millennial and Gen Z shoppers in particular have grown up in a society that encourages social change, preferring to give back through the products and brands they buy rather than donating directly to causes they are passionate about.
However, it’s important to remember that for a purpose-built business to resonate with consumers, it must be authentic. Consumers are now more informed than ever and well-equipped to spot misdirection. Tactics aimed at quickly improving financial gains may encourage short-term success, but true purpose and authenticity ensure a business’ long-term sustainability.
It’s therefore important for brands to demonstrate that their purpose is not only relevant, but also trustworthy. This ethos is built into the Recognised business model – we are accountable to both our board of directors and charity partners to fulfil the promises we make in helping to increase the impact of transformational charities and spark societal change. We donate 100% of profits from the sale of our Statement Popons® to our partner charities. Yet purpose must also exist beyond donation, and our purpose is to see a world where every person is seen and valued. Incorporating this social impact and purpose within the heart of our business model has allowed us to demonstrate both credibility and authenticity when meeting and speaking with customers.
When looking at how to create a purpose-built brand or how to pivot into one, the first action is to define what you are trying to change. You can ask yourself these questions: What change do you want to see in the world? And what would a changed world look like for you?
Social impact which is authentic starts with purpose first and flows out to impact, shape and influence for the better – all that you do as a business and the people you reach. True authenticity cannot be bought, but if you can establish your purpose, it will establish you in return.
My advice – break down impact on a macro and micro level to provide some thought provoking questions which help outwork your unique impact through you and your business and out to the world around you. On a macro level, look at what affects the world around your business. What’s the driving purpose of this organisation? How does this impact why we exist? How do we respond? On a micro level, look at what affects the world around you. Often your macro reason as a business stems from a core part of who you are as a founder and what you care about. Micro and macro impact go hand in hand and work in relationship with one another.
Once you have defined the ‘what’, the next step that should drive you forwards is the ‘how’.
At Recognised, we work with a small group of specially selected charities to ensure that the impact of donations raised via our Statement Popons® can be as big as possible whilst also being equal and transparent. We look to partner with charities making a significant impact in local communities where it’s most needed. This is based on a number of assessments and factors including scale of impact, connection to communities, innovation and synergy with our mission.
When looking for partners, we’ve learnt that there are two key things in building long-term relationships.
First, place highest importance on the alignment of mission and values between you and a partner. You may not be working towards an identical goal but having synergy in direction and values will ensure that a partnership can be established which will withstand all the ups and downs, twists and turns. Second, set clear expectations early on. This will ensure everyone knows what they’re agreeing to and importantly provides the ability to frame honest conversations which are critical to successful partnerships.
Of course, creating a brand with purpose is not without its challenges. Since we were founded, the overarching theme of the past two and a half years has been learning to get used to and become comfortable with uncertainty, the unknown and things out of our control.
Uncertainty comes with the territory of running a start-up business, but the impact of Covid on this has been off the charts. My advice for dealing with uncertainty and the pressures which continue to surround you as an entrepreneur would be to take ownership and control over your thoughts. Don’t let them run wild in your mind or allow fear and worry to take over. It is easier said than done, but is a discipline we can each grow in. I am learning each day to surrender to what I can’t control, asking myself questions like ‘Can I solve this?’ and ‘Can I control this?’. If the answer to these questions is no, I remind myself to not worry about it. Through doing so, I’m finding more peace and joy in an unsettling time and freeing up my headspace to think creatively and see things from a new perspective.
On the hardest days as a founder, when I find myself questioning if it’s all worth it, remembering our purpose and reliving the experience of our impact is what gets me on my feet and pushes me forward.
Ultimately, your purpose can drive fulfilment, and in turn, your resilience and ambition to succeed.
Anneka Wallington, Founder and Creative Director at Recognised