Building purpose-driven brands and achieving the Global Goals
September 28, New York City
Last week, the United Nations announced their global goals, aiming to make big progress on extreme poverty, equality, and environmental protection by 2030. It’s not just the responsibility of the UN and civil society to achieve these goals, which is why enso and TOMS kicked off the week with a convening of 20 purpose-driven brands to discuss the potential for businesses and people to come together as part of the solution.
Gathered around a table at the TOMS SoHo showroom, the conversation dug into the big questions and common nuances in building brands that can better the world.
Here are some of the main points that we circled around.
The fierce urgency of now — while progress is being made, and it’s becoming more common for brands to address social issues, the Global Goals represent a moment for us to recognize the significance of the challenges ahead. Tackling those challenges will require making both small and large changes — all of which asks for bold action and big courage from senior leaders. Take Jeffrey Immelt and his leadership team at GE for example. They’ve been committed to renewable energy through ecomagination long before it was widely accepted business practice — and have clocked major results for the environment and for their bottom line. Despite the urgency and the scale of issues that lie before us, there is a sense of optimism from participants. The Millennium Development Goals helped raise awareness about major issues. Citizens and brands are now both aware and equipped to make a difference.
Embracing tradeoffs — being conscientious about creating social impact is hard, and making an improvement in one area can easily make a conflicting impact in another. Tradeoffs discussed included balancing the beneficial impact created for people — i.e. more jobs — versus environmental impact — i.e. industrialization. Those are sometimes not in alignment, meaning tough decisions need to be made about priorities, which may lead to imperfect solutions. The group discussed being open and transparent about these tradeoffs rather than obscuring them from view, and in that transparency, creating opportunities for stakeholders to voice their preferences.
The importance of human stories — the group discussed the importance of human stories to compel action from brands and people. After years of being overlooked, the Syrian refugee crisis was flooded with supporters after the image of Aylan, the young boy found drowned on a beach, hit newsstands. There needs to be a translation of difficult, complex issues into information that is understandable and relatable, and people need to believe that change is possible. Brands have an opportunity to use their marketing resources to engage people around purpose, and inspire them towards action. This is true beyond consumer marketing: it’s important to connect employees and potential employees with the impact being created — ‘people want to show up as their whole selves’, and not have to think about creating impact later in life or outside work.
We need more companies to embrace social mission at their core — We imagine that in the next generation —the children of BIG TABLE participants — there will be a whole new way of looking at business that doesn’t see social impact and business results as separate. Given the scale and diversity of the challenges at hand, and the need to stay relevant with future generations, we need to see more brands putting social impact at their core, rather than as an adjunct ‘bolt on’. This is not just a call to action for new businesses, existing brands also need to reengineer themselves and discover their social mission. In doing so, there’s an opportunity for more partnerships between brands around shared objectives to drive scaled impact.
The BIG TABLE dinner series brings together diverse perspectives to discuss some of the biggest issues of our time, with the intention of establishing new connections, inspiring a new way of thinking and accelerating progress.
We’re grateful to all our attendees:
- Anita Sharma, Executive Director at UN Foundation
- Bryn Mooser, Co-founder of RYOT
- Carol Cone, Founder of Purpose Collaborative
- Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children Foundation
- Dana Rosenberg, Director of KIND Movement
- Debora Frodl, Global Executive Director of ecomagination at GE
- Felicity Fellows, Global Partnerships Development at TEDx
- Ilze Melngailis, Senior Director Global Partnerships at UN Foundation
- Jennifer Gootman, Director of Social Consciousness at West Elm
- Jonah Berger, Author of Contagious & Professor at Wharton
- Katie Hunt-Morr, Senior Manager of Values and Impact at Etsy
- Morgan Clendaniel, editor at Fast Company
- Paul van Zyl, President of MAIYET
- Raj Joshi, Managing Director at The B Team
- Robert Wong, VP at Google Creative Lab
- Ryan Gall, Founder of Global Citizen Festival
- Sharad Aggarwal, Vice President at BRAC
- Sujean Lee, SVP of Corporate Affairs at Chobani
- Will Weisman, Executive Director at Singularity University
- Priya Bery, Chief of Staff, TOMS
- Liz Heller, Strategic Partnerships Advisor, TOMS
- Brian Hardwick, Messaging & Activation Lead, enso
- Carla Fernandez, General Manager, enso
- Katelyn Faith, Sr. Marketing Manager, enso
- Kirk Souder, co-founder, enso
- Sebastian Buck, co-founder, enso