Sustainable Brand’s Etienne White on Accelerating Progress with Purpose

At Brands for Good — an initiative under the aegis of the global community of sustainable brand innovators, Sustainable Brands — a core belief is that companies can drive mainstream consumer behavior change.

By fully tapping into collective innovation, sustainability, and marketing resources, as well as utilizing a shared set of tools for all partner organizations, participating companies can help lead the way to environmental, social, and economic change.

One of the most powerful tools for improvement is a clear and inspiring company purpose, which can motivate employees and consumers to make important changes. However, as Etienne White, vice president of Brands for Good, points out, the older model of just talking about company purpose no longer cuts it. Instead, businesses have “moved through the ‘purpose washing’” era, and leading companies are focused on the “conditions under which business can be a flourishing, regenerative place where people thrive.”

White sees purpose being used by companies to have greater positive impact on the world in two important ways.

Connecting Purpose to Company Values and Culture

A company’s purpose cannot live in a slide deck. Instead, there needs to be a real connection between what a company defines as its purpose and the actions, values, and culture of the workplace. White asserts that the connection is particularly effective when “profit and purpose are embedded from the beginning” and form a “core part of the company’s mission.” That type of environment is the key when engaging and mobilizing employees to strive for change by connecting their work with real-world impact.

Using Purpose to Bring Together Disparate Roles and Organizations

“Businesses in silos and business in binary roles is not the way forward,” White remarks. To solve some of the largest sustainability challenges, companies need employees and organizations to come together to create holistic solutions. Having a clear and shared purpose brings everyone together – from the CEO, CFO, CHRO, CMO of the same company to expansive, cross-industry partnerships – and gets them speaking the same language.

Employees feeling inspired to make a difference at their companies and around the world, are encouraged to get involved with Brands for Good. As White says, the “No. 1 way to accelerate progress right now is to come join the collaborative of Brands for Good.”

HR Untold: Brands for Good

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HR Untold: Brands for Good

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Kirsten Allegri-Williams is chief marketing officer at SAP SuccessFactors.