Patagonia made headlines recently when founder Yvon Chouinard transferred ownership of the company to its nonprofit, Holdfast Collective, and its trust, Patagonia Purpose Trust, as a commitment to living its purpose to “save our home planet.” A company valued at $3 billion with profits estimated at $100 million annually, Patagonia was built on the principles of sustainability — to protect nature and to do more good, making purpose part of its core.

It seems that, today, many companies are putting their hand up claiming a commitment to environmental sustainability, improved diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and social outreach, with B2C companies leading the charge. Forrester’s upcoming report, The State Of Environmental Sustainability In The Fortune Global 200, states that 71% of these companies have carbon neutral goals. The pressure continues for both B2C and B2B companies to commit to broader social and environmental causes and incorporate them as a foundation of their brand.

All this hype is encouraging, as long as companies’ behaviors align with their claims.

Make Actions Match Messaging

With outliers like Patagonia executing on purpose with flawless ease, some companies may attempt to follow the trend. Many organizations have incorporated environmental sustainability and more broadly corporate social responsibility (CSR) into their business for more than a decade, while others are new to it and are still determining how these programs fit into who they are and how to express it.

Do companies’ actions match their words? Trust is a delicate characteristic that is tested and diminished with deception.

Forrester’s 2022 B2B Brand And Communications Survey found that the majority of companies polled have a clear commitment to CSR initiatives, and 53% of B2B marketing leaders who participated in Forrester’s Marketing Survey, 2022, are prioritizing building a brand purpose aligned to brand vision, mission, and CSR goals.

With that said, this isn’t a rally cry to choose the most popular cause as your purpose. It’s a charge to understand your brand’s purpose and act accordingly. As terms like “sustainable” and “purpose” are turning up in the value propositions and websites of B2B organizations ranging from tech companies to oil and gas, the question remains: Do companies’ actions match their words? Trust is a delicate characteristic that is tested and diminished with deception. People lose trust when companies’ behaviors are very different from the words and images they use to tell their story.

Moving To Purpose

Organizations must shape their purpose based on several factors, including their core reason for being, the audiences they serve, what’s valuable and important to them, and how they operate in the context of today’s social and economic conditions. CMOs must align their brand strategy with the organization’s strategy and guard against contradictions.

Dig deep and examine your employee base, your partners and suppliers, and your customers to understand the company you keep and how their actions reflect on your business. If a brand’s purpose no longer stands up, then CMOs need to reevaluate.

Assessing Your Brand Purpose

No other company is Patagonia, so it’s vital that executives are honest with themselves and transparent with audiences. Start by asking these questions:

  • What is the organization’s brand purpose and how is it communicated and realized?
  • What are the organization’s annual and long-term goals for purpose?
  • What is the path to reach those goals?
  • What behaviors conflict with the organization’s purpose?
  • What changes is the organization making to address missteps and ensure alignment?

Are you ready to ask these questions and be honest with the answers? Contact us to continue the discussion on brand purpose and messaging.

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