No doubt you have heard of ‘positive business’ and ‘corporate social responsibility’, ‘sustainability’ and ‘conscious Capitalism’. Terminology like this is being used more and more, particularly in the chaos of 2020, by businesses aiming to show their human side, to show they care, to show that they are altruistic and interested in more than just profit for their shareholders.
But what is a conscious business and what’s the point?
Above all else, a conscious business is still a business with efficiency, profit and returns key deliverables. But a conscious business, in its truest sense, also strives for something beyond this – human impact.
Social enterprises are a great example of businesses that put social and human impact first but can also make money. Think of TOMS, they are “in business to improve lives” and has given away over 100 million pairs of shoes to those who need them. Likewise, Patagonia is a social enterprise set up in the 1980s and lauded for its unshifting consistency and focus on its purpose of limiting its impact on the planet.
Some might say that improving human impact should be solely the reserve of social enterprises, charities, non-profits and government agencies, should it be for businesses other than these. But, if we remember that work is the single greatest utiliser of human effort on the planet with half our waking adult life spent at work, then it really should be up to all businesses (not just charities and the like) to tackle human impact head on.
So, do conscious businesses make less money? Not at all. It has been proven that businesses that pursue a clear purpose beyond profit, strive to create value for all their stakeholders (not just shareholders), and insist on developing leaders that create a culture of care and safety rather than control and fear, outperform their peers by wide margins.
And behind all this is the view that customer sentiment has changed, possibly forever. Back in January, the World Economic Forum declared that we are all living in “the age of the conscious consumer.” And a recent YouGov poll showed that only 9% of Britons want their lives to return to “normal” after the pandemic. They don’t want to lose the pleasures of family time, connecting with loved ones or cooking from scratch when the pandemic restrictions end. But 2020 hasn’t just been about Covid-19 which we have seen through Black Lives Matter protests, unemployment, the #MeToo movement and more.
In no other year, has conscious business practices been so at the forefront of brand marketing, than in 2020. Gillette changed their slogan in 2020 from “the best a man can get” to “the best a man can be” and has committed $1m over the next three years to non-profit partners to support their mission. With the closure of schools in March, Heinz committed to providing twelve million free breakfasts to the children who needed them most. Working with its partner Magic Breakfast, Heinz provided these meals for children who would usually benefit from their breakfast club programmes.
Because customers’ values have changed, businesses need to adopt a new set of guidelines to extend their brand promise such as leading with values, highlighting how your brand helps others and highlighting your commitment to public good.
The need to be a conscious business is here to stay. If you are looking to build more purpose or consciousness into your business get in touch today.
Connect with Vicki on LinkedIn here.