Brand values: it’s time to rethink your impact and purpose
BUSINESS SUSTAINABILITY IS HERE TO STAY. WHY YOU NEED AUTHENTIC BRAND VALUES AND THE ABILITY TO ADAPT.
November 5, 2020
Brand values are the fundamental beliefs that guide the impact you want to make on the world. But what role do they play the future of business, given the ‘current climate’?
This term, ‘the current climate,’ refers to the ecosystem that we all live and work in: it is complex, interconnected and finely balanced. With a rise in populism, polarised viewpoints and ever-increasing inequalities, as well as the global impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, it may feel hard to see a positive future. There is, however, hope. Buckets of it.
Some forward-thinking brands are recognising the importance of business sustainability. In other words, the value of balancing social, economic and environmental impact. Common tactics include giving back to society, adapting operations to become more eco-friendly and developing opportunities for employees to look after their mental health. These baby-steps collectively make for much larger change.
In fact, a groundswell of individuals, organisations and communities is creating positive change for our future survival. People are stepping up and recognising that we all have a part in creating a future in which we can all thrive.
The public should get what it wants
We’re told that the customer is always right. So why don’t more brands listen to the groundswell and make a shift to incorporate sustainable business practices?
We keep hearing stories about consumers posting plastic packaging back to brand owners like Walkers, for example. As users become more aware of ‘the unseen’, such as CO2 emissions, the plastic lifecycle and food miles, businesses need to make the first move.
Users are often encouraged to ‘vote with their wallets’, but businesses are usually on the back foot when future-proofing and adapting to user demands. So, if customers start spending elsewhere, shouldn’t you not look to adapt? Or better still, pre-empt things?
Why brand values matter
When did you last revisit your brand values? Do they reflect your brand today or merely echo times gone by?
Businesses must stay true to their values. These may evolve, of course, for example towards a tighter definition or to align more closely with organisational purpose, but no further.
Thing is, few organisations make time to develop their values strategically. Clear brand values and authentic purpose are the anchor from which you make every business decision. They guide your activities and steer the focus to where it is best spent.
What about more mature brands?
Many new organisations get business sustainability and ethical brand values right from the start. However, it’s easy to spot a mature brand that’s trying to shoehorn green issues or social movement into its marketing.
If your values don’t focus attention towards specific issues, and these threads aren’t woven throughout the whole organisation, this comes across as shallow or hypocritical. It can do more harm than good for the brand and the causes it supports.
Frameworks to help businesses adapt
There was a shift in global society after WWII where we had the birth of multilateral organisations like the United Nations and worldwide business certifications such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). These systems and infrastructures have led to positive change; nevertheless, given today's societal demands, they are not enough.
Society has leaped forward; so too must the frameworks for collective success. In 2015 the UN created Sustainable Development Goals for adoption and interpretation by society. These are a good starting place for focusing your positive impact; of the 17 goals, choose perhaps one to three that resonate with your brand and offer opportunities for stakeholders to get involved.
Operational frameworks such as B-Corp, which measures organisations’ social and environmental impact, and structures like Social Enterprise, for businesses with a social or environmental mission, are at the forefront of change.
Social Enterprise or Certified B-Corporations have had to prove consideration of ‘the unseen’. They balance making an operating profit with astute awareness of their impact on the planet while looking after their people (after all, what is a business without happy people?). And although pivoting to these operational and legal structures can take time and effort, the benefits are unquestionable.
How suppliers can boost your brand values
As you work on your longer-term strategy, don’t just audit the internal aspects of your organisation. Look also at who you work with, what partnerships you have in place and who your suppliers are. This is an effective way to become more sustainable and, if necessary, move forward with some changes. Profit is often the most important driver and companies view competitively-priced suppliers as the top option. But this doesn’t make them the best option.
Ask yourself about existing suppliers:
- Are they ethical?
- Do their values match yours?
- Do they meet your needs?
- Would you sign them afresh today?
- Does a more ethical option suit your brand as it is now?
Hoxby’s sustainable approach
Hoxby can be your outsourced and ethical partner. We’re both a social enterprise and a certified B-Corp. This means we’re committed to using business as a force for good by balancing purpose and profit – and we’re measured against the highest standards of social and environmental impact. Find out more about our commitment in our latest Impact Report and visit The Hoxby Foundation to discover what we’re doing to refresh work to work for everyone.
There are no quick wins, though
It’s increasingly evident that sustainable business – where profit is carefully balanced with social, economic and environmental impact – is the way forward.
If they haven’t already done so, they’ll need to define their purpose and vision, and crystallise these in a set of brand values.
Furthermore, business leaders should look at and audit internal and external aspects of their organisation. Businesses don’t exist in a vacuum; they must consider their role in a world where all kinds of groups are working out what they can do, independently and collaboratively.
Sustainability is a journey where businesses must face challenges, define opportunities and take initiatives. One thing is certain: a clear purpose and vision can lead to a better future for everyone.
Cath Harris is a positive-impact and communications consultant and part of the Hoxby community.