#1 Purposing event takeaways: Embedding more sustainable practices in business


22 / 09 / 2020

How might we create the right environment for businesses to deliver purpose-led change?

Emerging from the Covid-19 crisis, as businesses recover, restructure and reevaluate, we have a unique opportunity to embed sustainable behaviours and practices. Businesses across categories are looking again at their purpose, the role they play in the world, as well as how they can get back into profit.

However, this is no simple task. Goodwill alone will not ensure businesses act effectively to embed purpose in a substantive way. We look at how we create the right environment for businesses to deliver purpose-led change. We have invited three leaders from the world of business, media and politics to discuss the challenges and opportunities for brands as they establish and deliver a more sustainable agenda.

Our panel included Baroness Rosie Boycott (Peers for the Planet), Juliet Davenport OBE (CEO, Good Energy), and Anna Turrell (Head of Environment, Tesco)

If you missed the session or would like to watch the full webinar again, you can here.

We’ve also included a summary of the key insights heard during the session below.

→ Purpose is more important than ever

Only 9% of Britons want life to go back to ‘normal’ once lockdown and social distancing measures are eased. Society and consumers are ready for a change to business as usual and is demanding that businesses embed sustainability into their operating models.

The consumer backlash against businesses who have been deemed not to have behaved responsibly during lockdown and support for others taking substantive purposeful action underscores a critical shift in mainstream societal awareness.

Starting a purpose conversation in business often needs a jolt from society – especially early on in the purpose journey. Society has set the conditions for purpose to be more closely scrutinised by senior leaders as inaction is a significant business risk.

COVID has given us a new jump off point…this is a time for us to be really really bold

–Juliet Davenport


→ Purpose needs to be lived across every part of an organisation

Purpose isn’t just a statement – it’s active. It has to owned by everyone in every part of the business and brought to life through substantive actions.

So when we look to embed purpose we have to start with internal engagement across all levels and business areas to generate buy in, excitement and ownership.

Co-creation is a really great way to engage key stakeholders early in the purpose journey. It helps to develop a shared, ownable vision for the future and provides you with a network key allies that you can rely on to be in your corner deeper into the embedding process.

Purpose as a concept is not black and white, it’s complicated and it’s nuanced – but I think fundamentally it has to be active. This isn’t about having a great purpose statement that sits on the wall, it’s an idea that has to be lived in every part of the organisation

–Becky Willian


→ It needs to be measurable if its to be credible

Purpose can only be proved to be active if you can demonstrate the change that is being created by the organisation. Metrics and KPIs must be set across the business to sustain purpose-led change – this is as equally important for internal cultural change as it is for external sustainability activities.

Metrics and KPIs requires for accountability need to be entrenched throughout the organisation and that’s why they are so powerful at embedding and sustaining purpose-led change.

“We need to make sure that there are effective, transparent, credible metrics and KPIs across and throughout businesses to sustain and embed the changes that we want to see”

–Anna Turrell


→ “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”
Corporate culture is the driving force in embedding purpose 

We spend a lot of our time thinking about purpose at a strategic organisational level but we neglect culture at our peril. Corporate culture is the driving force for embedding purpose and helps to ensure that it’s lived in the values of the organisation.

Strong leadership is needed to drive a purposeful corporate culture. Leading from the front sets the organisational tone and gives permission to colleagues to initiate change. But what if you don’t have an Alan Jope or a Helena Helmersson?

“Leadership is absolutely fundamental to try and bring about sustainable change…and we’ve seen it work with companies such as Unilever with Paul Polman”

–Anna Turrell