Approaching recovery with purpose

As we start to emerge from months of life in lockdown, it's important to take this moment to share some thoughts on how businesses can play a more purposeful role in leading the way through recovery. COVID-19 was devastating, but it also offered us all a glimpse through the looking glass at how things could be if we are forced to slow down. There is an appetite for the ‘new normal’, and whilst there are many things, we are looking forward to returning to there are equally many that we aren’t.  Increasingly it's companies, not governments, that are leading the change and it’s become apparent that companies and governments can change things very swiftly when they want to….!

Expectations are higher. This sudden, sweeping, global sickness has brought the world’s problems to our doorstep and made us listen. In doing so, it has accelerated a paradigm shift in our economic system which favours meaning and purpose over status and profit as a measure of success.

The Larry Finks of this world knew that cataclysmic change was on the horizon. Less than a year ago, the US Business Roundtable made the historic move of redefining the ‘purpose’ of a corporation to the benefit not just of its shareholders but of all stakeholders. Not as a media stunt, or as a lip service to prevailing trends but as the ‘most promising way to build long term value’. The move acknowledged that leading with purpose is the ultimate future proof, informing better decision making, creating a more motivated workforce, and improving customer relations.

COVID-19 has accelerated this transition and companies who were already leading with purpose were quick to activate it during the crisis, responding rapidly with appropriate acts of solidarity. For others, who were slow or resistant to act, or put profits ahead of public health, the transition has been much less flattering….

The new normal will see this contract between businesses and society change for good. Stakeholders won’t just want you to activate your purpose as a brand. They are going to demand that you do it wholesale as a company. They will expect you to be making positive, progressive contributions to society and that these, in turn, align with your principles as a business.

As we have seen so plainly of late, having purpose as a company is not just about waving flags or having a point of view on current events. It’s about articulating your core values as an organisation and then implementing them via tangible actions that both practically and symbolically communicate that purpose, right across the business. For some companies this might involve a re-shuffle of their organisational structure or a drive for new recruits. For others, it might require an entire existential rethink of decades-long practice against a rising tide. For those companies we would like to say, we can help with that and we are here for you.

We have been advising some of the world’s biggest brands on how to engage with their audiences. Using film, we have been helping clients to communicate their message, and reach audiences across the world. Whether that is introducing a new CEO to employees worldwide, communicating your purpose with a brand film or live streaming an event - film is the most effective way to bring your purpose and story to life, and communicate across multiple geographies to reach your audience.

Abi Harding is a Producer at MerchantCantos.

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