We’re right slap bang in a window of opportunity. Today, the consumers who actively care about a brand’s purpose are a minority. But their ranks are swelling fast, so now’s the perfect time to act – and clean up your act.
Chocolate brand Tony’s Chocolonely is one of the best-known names in ethical food production. And UK country manager Ben Greensmith believes they’re not cranks, but trailblazers: “Most [companies] will need to have a higher purpose in tomorrow’s world. In a world that is moving towards more openness and more transparency, it is going to be harder for those businesses to hide the bad stuff they’re doing.”
With transparency and better practice a given, let’s take a look at three inspiring examples of purposeful businesses.
Why not start with Tony’s Chocolonely itself?
With its rallying cry “let’s make chocolate 100% slave free”, the business was established with a higher purpose at its heart.
When Dutch journalist Teun van de Keuken was shocked to discover that slavery still exists on cocoa farms in West Africa, he did what he knew best and launched a TV investigation. But after some brilliant media stunts, he decided to bite the bullet and make his own fairtrade, slave-free chocolate.
Rubies in the Rubble
Google ‘anti-food waste condiment manufacturer’ and you’ll see the strapline ‘packed with purpose’ right up there with the brand name.
Did you know that a third of all food produced globally is wasted?
Farmer’s daughter Jenny was shocked to discover this fact. She found out that lots of food is rejected simply for being the wrong shape (curly cucumbers), too ugly (gnarly carrots) or the wrong size (onions that don’t fit into the mechanical peeler) as well as being a bit over-ripe.
She began rescuing produce from New Covent Garden market and experimenting in the kitchen with childhood recipes for jams and chutneys.
The Shows We Never Want to Make campaign
A clever example of a purpose campaign, rather than one that’s baked into a business. Part of ITV’s climate pledge, this series of ads used the broadcaster’s best-known shows, including Coronation Street and This Morning, to convey a dark warning. These familiar icons were given a new title and title sequence to predict the dire consequences if we fail to act on the climate crisis.
The purpose point
Each of these examples has a purpose point that combines a unique set of skills and experiences.
For Tony’s Chocolonely, it looks like this:
Ethical beliefs + media platform + food and drink contacts
Plenty of people were trying to make fair trade chocolate before Tony’s Chocolonely. But Teun had the media platform and publicity skills to whip up enough controversy to make people take notice.
For Rubies in the Rubble:
Farming + sustainability + childhood recipes for condiments
Jenny couldn’t take on the whole sustainability challenge singlehandedly. But as a farmer’s daughter, with a lifelong interest in food, she was perfectly placed to play her part in the thorny issue of waste.
For ITV’s campaign:
Popular TV shows + broadcasting expertise + big audiences
Other businesses the size of ITV are trying to do something about climate change. But ITV has the popular brands to help the message hit home.
Find your purpose point
Your own purpose point should grow just as organically from your own experiences, passions and ideals.
Start by creating a three-circle Venn diagram of what, as a business, you’re good at, what you’re passionate about and what difference you can make. Where they all intersect, you’ll find your purpose point.
Canvas opinion, ask the workforce for their thoughts and ideas, but don’t get sucked into the temptation to include everything. As Seth Godin says in his book Purple Cow: “Cows, after you’ve seen one, or two, or ten, are boring. A Purple Cow, though … now that would be something. Purple Cow describes something phenomenal, something counterintuitive and exciting and flat out unbelievable. Every day, consumers come face to face with a lot of boring stuff – a lot of brown cows – but you can bet they won’t forget a Purple Cow.”
Your purpose must be unique to you; something remarkable and something people can look at and instantly recognise as your ‘thing’.
I’d guess that Jenny, Teun and the ITV executives hate racism and homophobia as much as they hate slavery, food waste and the climate crisis. But they chose to focus on the places they could really make a difference; the sweet spot of skillset, conviction and their authentic selves. Edit your Venn diagram until you have the same utterly focused clarity.
And remember – be authentic. You might long for a world with gender equality but don’t publish a heartwarming purpose built around it if you don’t have any women on your board. You’ll be called out on it before the ink’s dry.