ANA Issues Guidelines to Protect Companies Against “Purpose-Washing” | About the ANA | ANA

ANA Issues Guidelines to Protect Companies Against “Purpose-Washing”

Trade Group’s Center for Brand Purpose Collaborated with Marketers, Agencies, and Educators to Develop Recommendations

NEW YORK (September 7, 2022) — The ANA today issued new guidelines to help companies ensure that their efforts to improve the lives of their customers by embracing the tenets of purposeful marketing are authentically embedded in their organizations.

“6 Principles for Avoiding Purpose-Washing” was developed by the ANA Center for Brand Purpose in collaboration with senior marketers, agency executives, educators, and other purpose experts. Two principles apply specifically to a company’s creation of a purpose statement and four relate to the activation of purpose internally and externally.

The guidelines were created as companies of all stripes are addressing societal issues and exploring how they can make a meaningful difference in the world. Purposeful organizations are driving sustained brand growth, retaining, and acquiring top talent, and building trust among stakeholders. According to the 2022 Purpose Power Index from StrawberryFrog and Dynata, 16 of the top 20 brands are large legacy organizations, including Roche, Patagonia, General Electric, Toyota, and Wegmans Food Markets, while Seventh Generation, TOMS, and Zoom Communications hold the top three positions, respectively.

“Today’s customers have high expectations of brands that claim to be purposeful,” said ANA CEO Bob Liodice. “But it’s not enough to articulate purpose through words or one-off campaigns. Brands must consistently demonstrate their purpose through authentic, honest, and transparent actions. When brands root purpose in authenticity in everything they do, they can become forces for good in the world and drive growth.”

Liodice added that as more brands and businesses declare themselves purposeful, there is growing cynicism among stakeholders over inauthentic attempts to appear socially and ethically conscious. He noted that a recent survey by Razorfish and Vice Media found that only 43 percent of consumers truly believe brands are living their purpose. And in today’s call-out culture, cries of “purpose-washing” are becoming commonplace. Indeed, in the rush to make a societal impact, some brands have risked putting the purpose “story” ahead of their purpose strategy and actions, he said.

To guard against purpose-washing, the principles recommend that companies begin by taking two key steps:

  • Develop a strategic and enduring purpose statement. Purpose is an organization’s reason for being. It should state why it matters that the company exists. It is not a statement of what it wants to accomplish.
  • Root purpose in authenticity, human insights, and business strategy. Recognize that an authentic purpose will always be more important than short-term trends.

When activating a purpose statement, companies should:

  • Create systems and processes to manage purpose. Ensure purpose is the foundation of all brand activities, business functions, strategies, goals, and outcomes through the strategic planning process.
  • Integrate purpose into organizational culture. Understand that while purpose is important all throughout an organization, it must be championed by the C-suite and Board of Directors and embraced with conviction by middle management.
  • Empower stakeholders to act alongside the organization. Recognize that stakeholders are people first and include customers, government officials, policymakers, industry professionals, and employees.
  • Measure the impact of purpose. Develop key qualitative and quantitative metrics to measure success.

Each recommendation is followed by additional steps marketers should take to achieve the stated goals. The full list of principles and accompanying measures can be accessed here. The Purpose Power Index’s top 100 brands can be found here.



The mission of the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) is to drive growth for marketing professionals, brands and businesses, the industry, and humanity. The ANA serves the marketing needs of 20,000 brands by leveraging the 12-point ANA Growth Agenda, which has been endorsed by the Global CMO Growth Council. The ANA’s membership consists of U.S. and international companies, including client-side marketers, nonprofits, fundraisers, and marketing solutions providers (data science and technology companies, ad agencies, publishers, media companies, suppliers, and vendors). The ANA creates Marketing Growth Champions by serving, educating, and advocating for more than 50,000 industry members that collectively invest more than $400 billion in marketing and advertising annually.

John Wolfe
Director of Communications
Office: 212.455.8011
Cell: 914.659.8663