NEWS18 March 2022

Businesses must embrace social causes for the right reasons

Charities Impact 2022 News Sustainability UK

UK – Businesses need to demonstrate they are getting involved in social or charitable causes because they are “at the heart” of their purpose, according to a Market Research Society Impact 2022 conference panel.

Donations box

The panel included Lawrence Bate, director of strategy and impact at the British Heart Foundation; Dr Lara Ramdin, chief innovation officer at Dole Sunshine Company; Michael Cheeseman, marketing manager at Bio&Me; and Amanda Richards, chief marketing officer at Pura.

Bate said that there was a growing relationship between charities and business, but warned that consumers expected to see genuine commitment from brands.

“Commercial organisations are changing – I think there is a much more strategic relationship between the commercial world and the charity sector,” Bate said. “I have seen it grow from a purely transactional one to moving towards a more strategic and collaborative arrangement.

“The question is whether the commercial world is moving quickly enough and if it is doing it for the right reasons. Are they doing it because they feel a necessity, or because the genuinely want to? Because it is baked into the organisation to make the world a better place?

“Such is the greater visibility and scrutiny from the world at large, we could easily see now through the façade and through the brands that are just doing it because they think it is the right thing to do through to the organisations that are doing it because it is at the heart of what they do.”

Bate added that this included demonstrating the impact of a business’ charitable work, to show it was making a real difference.

“It is very easy for any organisation to talk about activity and what they are doing, when actually the measure of success is if it is making a difference,” he said.

“People look for inconsistencies and cracks, and we have to be watertight in terms of the consistency in looking up to the principles or purpose in the organisation.”

Ramdin said her company was on a road to transformation and underlined the need for partnership work.

“We can’t do it on our own,” she said. “We believe that true transformation and true change will only happen when we are united in this.”

She added that new employees often questioned her in interviews about how the company’s stated values were embodied in practice and on a day-to-day basis.

Richards added that Unilever soap brand Dove was “a great example of how having purpose can drive growth” due to its increased sales in recent years.

She said that being purpose driven was not affecting Unilever’s growth, with recent troubles at the company more to do with economic and supply chain issues.

Cheeseman said that growing as a brand had led to increased public engagement, stating: “We have noticed that from being a new brand that you can only buy on the website to now being available in multiple grocery outlets, the amount of comments and questions have come in have doubled.”