Looking for a Public Relations Agency? Use our Free matching service to find the right agency for you.

User login

Research among business leaders warns of ‘purpose wash’

Britain’s most successful companies are gaining competitive advantage and winning the war for talent by embracing social purpose, according to new research by Claremont among business leaders. However the new research entitled ‘Purpose in Practice’ also highlights the risks of ‘purpose-wash’ – where businesses claim and promote a sense of purpose as a reputational tool to gain market share.

‘Purpose in Practice’ captures the latest thinking from interviews with senior executives from 25 leading companies including Etsy, Unilever, The New York Times, Oxfam and LEGO and draws on existing research and commentary from the wider business community.

Talent and culture emerge as key themes, with interviewees endorsing research by Deloitte suggesting that employers with a clearly articulated social purpose attract and retain millennials far more effectively than those that don’t.

In the report, David Reed from Generation Change states: “We have reached a tipping point: the brightest and most ambitious students now increasingly want to work for a social business or charity, and the most savvy graduate employers are now recruiting for social leadership.”

Whilst there is mounting evidence to show the benefits of embedding purpose in organisations, the report draws attention to the fact that becoming – and remaining – purpose-driven is a major undertaking, and one that requires a long term commitment rather than a narrow focus on quarterly financial performance.

Ben Caspersz MPRCA, Managing Director, Claremont, said: “This research shows that Britain’s most successful companies are driven by a strong, clear, long-term purpose that goes beyond delivering quarterly profits. But it also shows that purpose means different things to different people and it is an evolving concept that is still playing out. Purpose requires integration across business functions – people, product and positioning – with communications professionals right there in the centre. Right now is an exciting time to be working in PR and marketing. It’s a tremendous opportunity for our sector to take its place at the top table.”

Purpose in Practice is available to download now here.