What do you stand for?

by Dec 16, 2015

I’ve written posts about the financial and brand-building power of Purpose before. (If you want to learn more, check out Simon Sinek. He’s the Purpose guru and famous for his mantra: “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”)

I’ve quoted some powerful stats from books like Firms of Endearment, which compares purpose-driven companies like Southwest Airlines, Whole Foods and J&J, to Jim Collins’ “Good to Great” companies (like Kimberly-Clark and Kroger):

  • Over 3 years: Firms of Endearment delivered a 73% return to investors; Good-to-Greats delivered 75%
  • Over 5 years: FoEs delivered a 128% return to investors; GtoGs delivered 77%
  • Over 10 years: FoEs delivered a 1,026% return to investors; GtoGs delivered 331%

Our 2015 Eco Pulse study bears out that purpose-driven companies and brands are better positioned with consumers than those who aren’t:

  • 59% of Americans say a company’s corporate social responsibility activities impact their purchase decisions.
  • 67% say a company’s stance on employee wages and working conditions also impacts their purchase decisions.
  • 33% say they’ve chosen one product over another or stopped purchasing a product based on the environmental record of its manufacturer – and 75% could name a specific brand.

Finally, there have been many studies done about the power of purpose in attracting, retaining and engaging employees. In fact, Monster did a poll several years ago that indicated 92% of us want to work at an environmentally responsible company. It makes sense … who wants to work for a company that’s only in it for themselves? And who wants to buy from them?

So there are several reasons to believe that when companies authentically commit to a purpose and make business decisions related to that purpose, it results in tangible business value.

Yet my observation is that it’s a newsworthy rarity when a big company decides to put its money where its values are, risking big to put a stake in the ground about what they stand for. In fact, the only two examples I can think of in the last few years are CVS and REI. As you probably know, CVS put its stake in the ground about health, turning away $2 billion in cigarette sales. REI closed its stores on Black Friday and started the #optoutside movement to better live in alignment with its values and purpose.

According to digital analytics firm SimilarWeb, REI actually experienced a 10% bump in online traffic on Thanksgiving, and a 26% rise on Black Friday. CVS’ road has been a bit rockier, but I’m guessing it takes a while to make up $2 billion in revenue.

As you head toward the end of the year and have a little time for reflection, I encourage you to think about what your company stands for, really. Is it meaningful? Is it worth your employees getting out of bed for? Is it a reason for customers to buy from you over and over again? If not, think about how you could shift. And then think about how you could make a meaningful, public move to align your actions with your purpose. It will pay dividends – not just on your P&L statement, but in your psyche.

From everyone at Shelton Group, and from all our families to yours, have a wonderful, restful, happy holiday season!

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About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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