Perhaps it is my age, but I feel I have become a somewhat suspicious and skeptical observer of the way in which some businesses talk about their ‘commitment’ to sustainability and social change. The terms ‘green washing’ and ‘purpose washing’ now appear in my lexicon more than ever before, but there is evidence to suggest that I may be onto something.
In late 2020, Clearly wanted to put this theory to the test. We canvassed over 500 CEOs, Managing Directors and Founders about brand ‘purpose’ – what a business does to minimise its impact on the environment and support social impact initiatives. The results rather flummoxed us.
Indeed, of the 503 respondents, 7 in 10 told us that having a brand purpose will be critical to post-pandemic growth given the way in which consumer attitudes and purchasing decisions, both in the B2C and B2B spaces, have changed during this time. Brands and businesses are increasingly being judged by what they say and do, and how they behave. This puts a degree of expectation on brands and businesses to show how committed they are to environmental and social responsibility causes.
However, a staggering 57 per cent of business leaders admitted to not actually knowing what is meant by brand purpose in the first place. Is it possible for a business to claim to have a purpose if it doesn’t ‘get’ what a purpose is? The answer is, of course, no, and it is these businesses who in my view are guilty of green- and purpose- washing.
But I remain positive and upbeat because I believe that all businesses – no matter their size or location or even how aware they are of their arses from their elbows when it comes to environmental and social governance – have the potential to become a powerful force for good. It is simply a case of making it easy for them to embed ESG into their existing commercial activities. Cue: the Clearly 2021 Innovation Challenge.
57 per cent of UK business leaders don’t understand what brand ‘purpose’ means yet 70 per cent say it’ll drive their post-pandemic recovery and growth?!
On 1st July, Clearly formally launches what we believe to be a first for a PR agency in the UK. Parking those bandwagonesque businesses to one side for a moment, there are many businesses doing great work in reducing their carbon footprint and committing to greater social responsibility.
If there is a way by which these businesses can go a step further and influence changes in attitudes towards these two great challenges throughout their customer base and supply chains, that could create a phenomenal domino effect. And this is the challenge we’ve thrown down to 16–25 year olds to meet – school and college leavers, undergraduates, apprentices and graduates alike.
Clearly has made £5,000 available for the research and development of a solution that enables businesses to empower their customers and suppliers to act on climate change and help advance the good of society. As a reward for their winning concept, the individual or team will be awarded £5,000.
The business community can be a greater force for good. It just needs a ‘way’ – a platform or service – to make it easier to do so. That is what the Innovation Challenge seeks to address and to do so in a way that eliminates the need for some businesses to feel compelled to bang their own green and social drum, which is too often lacking in sincerity and authenticity.
The winning solution to the challenge needs to be easy to adopt and largely effortless, cost-effective, and instantly measurable with clearly trackable benefits. Businesses can lead the change. By identifying consumer behaviours undertaken at scale and figuring out a way of automating the action and attaching a sustainable output to it, more people will feel good about what they are doing.
Full details on the 2021 Innovation Challenge can be found here: https://www.clearlypr.co.uk/innovation-challenge-2021/