Chapter 3 of Activating a Purpose Program Playbook

Participating in the Purpose Process

This is the third chapter in the playbook Activating a Purpose Program, from the ANA Center for Brand Purpose. Download the full playbook for more great insights from today's purpose champions.

Purpose-driven companies embed their unique raison d'être in every action, aiming to have an enduring impact on people's lives by occupying a meaningful place in the hearts and minds of all their customers.

Ideally, purpose guides everything they do:

  • Forging new paths
  • Making significant business decisions
  • Hiring new talent
  • Connecting people across siloed parts of the organization
  • Determining strategies for customer engagement
  • Cultivating a diverse culture
  • Defining and redefining a brand's place in the world

To achieve this, though, there needs to be consensus and clarity of mission that involves employee participation, full-scale C-suite commitment, and endorsement from all stakeholders.

As brands transition from the Attention Economy to the Emotion Economy, they are placing greater emphasis on elevating the human experience and tapping into customers' feelings. Perhaps one of the most telling signs of the Emotion Economy is the purpose-driven brand. While brands today need to establish their own means for making a difference and contributing to what matters most to their customers, people care about a holistic relationship with brands and businesses.

The purpose-driven brand is, unquestionably, at the center of this new dynamic.


Manos Spanos, Formerly of Danone North America

Danone's mission of "One Planet. One Health" is driven by employees, and not just the marketing team. Research and innovation, sustainability, finance, scientific affairs, communications, and brand marketing are all part of the collective team dedicated to developing programs and implementing projects that contribute to this mission. This is then supported by Danone's retailers, farmers, suppliers, and NGO partners.

The action behind the mission is what makes the company's brands a force for good. Danone works to make One Planet. One Health a reality every day for its brands and business, but also throughout the collective team:

  • When Danone applied for B-Corp status, it was expected to be a three-year journey. Employees were so excited and motivated by the commitment that Danone was able to accelerate the process, becoming certified in one year.
  • During the UN Climate Week, global CEO Emmanuel Faber wore a "Stubborn Climate Activist" T-shirt to exhibit passion and commitment to planet health as an individual, but also on behalf of the company. This act inspired employees across the organization to start a movement. It quickly transformed into an internal company challenge, where employees could voice their intention and act for planet health to receive a T-shirt and tag a friend to participate.
  • Danone listens to its employees and knows which causes and issues they are passionate about. Most recently, Danone achieved a "Triple A" score for climate change from the CDP, an international nonprofit charity that helps investors, companies, cities, and states to measure and manage their environmental impacts. Danone was proud to be one of just six companies in the world to achieve this score among more than 8,000 assessed, and the company knows its employees feel pride and passion when it comes to these environmental efforts, fighting deforestation, and protecting water cycles.

Danone's C-suite is passionate about how it can strengthen its business as well as its collective ability to use business as a force for good. It is ingrained in the company's brand manifestos and culture.


Rahul Malhotra, Shell

We live our purpose through story-doing, not storytelling. We will accomplish something first, then encourage people to talk about it. We inspire action, because it is part of our DNA as a company and helps us to be our best. Our stakeholders are a big part of this. Our job is to understand their needs and expectations.

Each year, we reach out to 600 employees, from Australia to Chile, in a wide cross-section of positions throughout our varied operations. We ask them two simple questions: "Why did you join Shell?" and "When you retire, what will you leave behind as a result of your work here?"

These are very emotional, intensely personal questions for people. They enable our employees to easily understand the depth of our commitment to making positive change in the world with their help. Their stories also tell us some key truths about our company. We have now collected thousands of these remarkable outpourings that reflect our employees' connections to the company and their expectations of a changing world, Shell's role within it, and their personal desires to not merely succeed within an organization, but to make a difference and even leave some legacy, large or small.

This has proven to be very powerful, and it is just the beginning of Shell's process to ensure that a clear sense of purpose permeates the company. In addition to strong C-suite buy-in, we encourage employee ambassadorship.

Next, all employees are asked if they are moving ahead with the purpose commitment of the company. The results are measured throughout 45 individual business groups and shared with each company chair and executive vice president. The process has been very successful. This has also led to our creating our own playbook as a six-step process to embed through all divisions of the organization. We call it "I Love It and I Live It." The very dynamic process is designed to touch the hearts and heads of our employees, stimulate their personal ambitions, and create the purpose-driven leaders of tomorrow.


Victoria Morrissey, Caterpillar

While it ordinarily takes a village to sell a marketing concept to engineering, our brand purpose effort was the easiest thing my team ever sold to management. "Let's Do the Work" has become an enterprise anthem. Marketing started with the needs and challenges of Caterpillar's customers, who shared the same life-work ethics as the company.

Percentage of CEOs who are integrating purpose into their decision-making and strategy

— Brandpie

We spoke with 5,000 current and potential Caterpillar customers in 22 countries within 14 segments. Instead of surveying them about their behavior, we focused on their attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs to determine how customers wanted to be interacted with. This would ultimately determine customer behavior. By questioning existing assumptions about our customers, we were able to build a better roadmap for how to effectively engage with them.

However, I admit the biggest challenge is the humility that is necessary to turn our brand over to our customers, and to truly connect with them on a regular and relevant basis. It's very hard to walk away from short-term sales numbers and short-term expectations. The biggest obstacle will be a shift of mentality from being an engineering R&D company to being a customer-centric company because we owe our customers the solutions to their problems.


Consumer Demand for Meaningfulness

A study of the top 500 companies in the U.S. showed how those that are organized around a higher moral purpose and seek to make a difference in society perform better than more traditional companies. Over 15 years, purpose-driven companies provided a return to their shareholders that was 14 times higher than the average business, and they also outperformed the average business in the short and medium terms.

Consumer demand for meaningfulness is reflected in employees who demand precisely the same in their workplace as in the content and purpose of their work. A major study by McKinsey shows that employees who consider their work meaningful are up to five times as productive as those for whom work is merely satisfactory. Similarly, studies show that employees who perceive their work as meaningful are 30 percent more innovative, 90 percent more engaged, and 40 percent more loyal (in terms of retention) than employees who do not consider their work meaningful.

Further, from all the MQ analyses (an analysis of personal needs and their fulfillment) that Voluntas has conducted since 2016, we have found that employees with a higher than average meaningfulness score report 24 percent lower levels of unbearable stress and significantly fewer sick days. The more meaning in our work, the higher the productivity and profitability, and with relevance for the "idealistic," the higher the quality of life.

— From the best-selling book One Life: How We Forgot to Live Meaningful Lives, by Morten Albaek, executive chairman of Voluntas


Mindy Barry, Mars Petcare

At Mars, purpose is deeply embedded across all business segments globally. It doesn't matter your role or position, you must contribute. The world we want tomorrow starts with how we do business today, and I ask daily what this means for me and my business unit to create a better world for pets. Certainly, our employees can bring their pets to work, but most go beyond their day-to-day duties by volunteering to build dog parks or animal shelters. A sense of purpose matters to our staff members, and we encourage everyone to get involved. And these activities fuel high engagement among our teams.

Two recent initiatives meant a lot to our Petcare group and the human and animal communities they serve:

  • Superpower Dogs. The IMAX film and educational experience celebrates the amazing true stories of dogs with extraordinary abilities who save lives and make the world a better place. Dogs have been helping humans for tens of thousands of years. And as more people recognize how pets make our world a better place, it was time to bring the extraordinary abilities of dogs to the screen. As the presenting sponsor of Superpower Dogs, Mars Petcare is providing museums and theaters with a variety of educational materials from its various programs and brands on the science of dogs, the importance of responsible pet ownership, and how to help end pet homelessness, including Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, Banfield Pet Hospital, and Better Cities for Pets.
  • The Lion's Share Fund. This Mars-led initiative, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme and FINCH production company, is meant to improve wildlife conservation by asking advertisers to direct some of the money they spend on ads featuring animals to protecting them. As many as 10,000 species a year become extinct due to human activity — around 1,000 times the natural rate. So Mars' ambition is to use our creativity to help save the animal kingdom. We are asking advertisers to direct just 0.5 percent of their advertising budget to The Lion's Share Fund. At the outset, seven of world's biggest companies and more than 50 brands answered our call to set us well on our way to reaching $100 million each year.


How Three Companies Involve the Customer in the Purpose Process

Apparel and beauty companies, often criticized in the past for being "wasteful," are now making great strides in becoming more environmentally friendly and driving participation in the purpose process through both consumers and employees. Their examples serve as valuable lessons for all types of companies that want to build stronger customer connections by enabling meaningful contributions.

Patagonia is as well known for built-to-last clothing as it is for environmental advocacy. An outdoor leader in recycled nylon and polyester fabrics, Patagonia launched Worn Wear in 2017. The company describes Worn Wear not as a recycled clothing line but as "a set of tools to help our customers partner with Patagonia to take mutual responsibility to extend the life of the products Patagonia makes and customers purchase." This set of tools includes resources for responsible care and repairs, trade-ins for store credit, and options for reuse through redesigned clothes literally diverted from landfills.

Apparel statistics demonstrate that using and maintaining clothing for just an additional nine months will reduce carbon, water, and waste footprints by 20 to 30 percent.

Women's clothing manufacturer Eileen Fisher is an industry leader in ethical and sustainable fashion, and its efforts have made employees proud while keeping customers loyal. The company believes social and environmental injustices are a reason to do business differently, and it carefully oversees its supply chain to ensure fair working wages. Among its fashion-forward offerings is a stylish, water-resistant trench coat made from recycled plastic bottles. An informational clothing tag helps both staffers and customers learn that recycled polyester keeps everyday waste out of landfills and has a low ecological footprint. More importantly, it's part of the company's purposeful commitment to change the way clothing is made and purchased, which delivers on what customers believe is important.

Like Patagonia, Eileen Fisher offers Renew, a take-back program that gives its clothing a second life while underscoring the apparel maker's commitment to circular design. Customers are encouraged to return any unwanted older pieces to a retail store to receive a credit. The company either finds the items another home through Green Eileen initiatives or turns them into entirely new designs. According to Eileen Fisher, "Making clothes is a lifetime commitment." But the company also understands the importance of a lifetime commitment to their customers, and they're happy to involve them in both the sustainable fabric education process and recycling participation.

Direct-to-consumer beauty brand Paula's Choice, founded in 1994 by Paula Begoun, has always been ahead of its time. Available as an online-only brand long before the surge in D2C lifestyle products, Paula's Choice has embraced a "Good for your skin. Good for our planet" stance. The company's commitment to sustainability is translated into three pillars: being a good neighbor, supporting its staff, and doing its part to keep its packaging out of landfills.

Paula's Choice partners with TerraCycle, the private U.S. recycling business created to collect non-recyclable waste. TerraCycle offers free recycling programs to consumers, funded by brands, and partners with corporate donors or municipalities to turn these non-recyclables into raw material to be used in new products.

Paula's Choice understands that reducing waste and minimizing one's carbon footprint matter to customers, employees, and the planet. Yet the company also knows that when things are made to be easy, the rate of consumer interest and success is much higher.

To recycle the company's empty containers, which may not be accepted at standard recycling stations due to color or mixed materials, customers simply have to sign up online to print a free mailing label. The empty containers can also earn rewards for schools or nonprofit charities.

Involving the customer in the purpose process matters, but so does the ease of that process.


Andrea Brimmer, Ally Financial

As an online-only bank, our customer service associates are an essential part of the customer experience, and their participation in our purpose and our "Do It Right" philosophy occurs every single day. We understand the importance of the human element when you call Ally Bank. Our "Banksgiving" campaign highlights the great work by our team in taking care of our most important asset, our customers, but it also shows what happens when you empower employees to live your values, particularly when they are a reflection of their values.

At Ally Bank, nearly every customer service call ends with the same question: "Is there anything else I can help you with today?" As a company that obsesses over its customers, we asked what would happen if, during a season of giving, we were able to go above and beyond to deliver what our customers wanted on a personal level.

During a single day in early November, in both 2018 and 2019, Ally went one step further in showing it is not just business as usual when customers answer that basic question. The Banksgiving campaign granted wishes big and small, from $25 gift cards to $55,000 to help a customer who helps others.

We took our customer-centric approach a step further than usual to demonstrate to our customers our interest in them and the things they care about. We had a great time surprising these customers and putting a big smile on their faces during the holiday season.

Giving back isn't a one-day event at Ally; it is an inherent part of the company culture. Ally designates the entire month of November as Giving Back Month. Across the country, Ally employees are out in the communities where they live and work, volunteering and donating to important causes. In fact, Ally takes giving back so seriously that each employee is offered eight hours of personal time off every year to volunteer for a cause close to them. The charity also receives a $25 donation for each hour volunteered. In 2019, Ally employees volunteered more than 17,000 hours and the company donated $800,000 through this program.


Simon Perkins, Orvis Company

It's often said that good ideas can come from anywhere, or anyone. Our employees, particularly our customer-facing retail teams, have provided many innovative solutions for us, because they understand the Orvis ethos and feel free to make relevant suggestions.

For years, we had a tuition-based fly-fishing school and shooting school. It was a three-day program, fairly expensive, and only available at our headquarters in Manchester, Vt. One day, one of our store managers came up with the idea of a free Fly Fishing 101 program. We tried it. The concept took off like wildfire and has become a big part of our offerings. In fact, we've expanded upon his idea.

The sport of fly fishing is only as good as the access and the resources are. Crowding more people onto already crowded streams is not in our interest. We can't expand the sport unless we expand the resource. And thanks to organizations like Trout Unlimited, we can honestly say that there are more places to fly fish today than there were 20 years ago. We need our focus on conservation and purpose if we want to keep expanding the sport.

We now acknowledge how old barriers must be broken, because not everyone feels welcome to the sport. Fly fishing was largely a man's activity, but again, we listened to our customers. Today, our goal has transformed to "50-50 on the water," an equal balance of men and women. The industry has changed rapidly to meet the needs of women. Through nonprofit initiatives, education, and a thirst for adventure, the inclusion of women has happened quickly. In fact, at Orvis, sales of women's fishing gear is up 44 percent, and that's an increase over the prior year when it was up 88 percent. We didn't start by saying, "Let's make more money from women in fly fishing," but simply listened carefully to the interests, needs, and intentions of the customer.


Lessons on Participating in the Purpose Process

  • Employees today want to work for a company that is doing good in the world. It's a motivational factor: employees want to know that they are helping to enact change. Plus, these employees are more likely to rise to senior level roles, be net promoters of their organization, stay longer, and have strong relationships with their colleagues.
  • Ask your employees what matters to them. Their stories tell key truths about the company and their expectations of a changing world, as well as their personal desires to succeed within an organization, make a difference, and even leave some legacy, large or small.
  • Listen to employees and know which causes and issues they are passionate about. Also watch for which initiatives cause them to feel pride in the organization. Keep in mind that a good idea can come from anywhere or anyone.
  • If purpose is deeply embedded across all business segments globally, employees feel they are contributing to the greater good.
  • When employees are excited and motivated by a commitment to purpose, achieving goals or creating growth can be more easily accomplished.
  • Involving customers in the purpose process is important. It allows brands to build stronger customer relationships by providing opportunities for meaningful contributions that matter. Purposeful customer involvement works best when that process is easy.