You’re probably familiar with companies that have aligned themselves with a higher purpose through environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives. And maybe you assumed it’s a luxury only large, multi-billion-dollar corporations can afford to invest in.
But that’s simply not true in today’s increasingly mission-driven world. Even for small- to mid-sized businesses, tapping into a higher purpose or implementing meaningful ESG initiatives is no longer a “nice to have” – it’s a must.
A higher purpose is essential for B2B success
Today’s buyers are environmentally and socially conscious. They’re looking for shared values and purpose in the companies they partner with, buy from and work for. In a world where things often feel uncertain and chaotic, a brand purpose conveys stability and security to these buyers looking for a partner, not just a product.
Connecting to a higher purpose isn’t a trendy marketing ploy that’s only for global companies, says investor, author and venture capitalist Kevin O’Leary of ABC’s Shark Tank.
“If you don't show people that you care about sustainability, you care about ESG, you care about the environment – if you don't care, they don't care about you,” he points out. “Every business needs to know that. [There are] massive movements toward specifically solving for sustainability.”
B2B brands are increasingly adopting this philosophy. In 2021, B2B brands represented six of the top 25 brands focused on social good – a significant shift from the 2019 list dominated by consumer brands. This can be partly attributed to the pandemic, which ushered in a new era of how B2B brands are perceived by their customers. It was further fueled by recent supply chain challenges, which offered B2B brands an opportunity to connect with customers around the usual product-focused topics.
What is brand purpose?
Brand purpose is your mission in society beyond making a profit. It connects with people on an emotional level about why your company exists.
A well-planned and communicated brand purpose can become a competitive advantage for B2B brands, helping:
- Create a more engaged audience.
- Develop a base of loyal customers.
- Create a sense of emotional engagement and authentic connection with customers.
- Cultivate brand advocates.
- Future-proof your company, making your brand unique and irreplaceable in the hearts and minds of your customers for years to come.
Examples of businesses with a higher purpose
Salesforce. Co-founder Marc Benioff built Salesforce around social responsibility, setting aside 1% of equity, product and employee time for charitable causes. In the last 23 years, the power of that promise has been felt through more than $240 million in grants, 3.5 million hours of community service, and product donations to more than 39,000 non-profit and educational institutions.
“Today, CEOs need to stand up not just for their shareholders, but their employees, their customers, their partners, the community, the environment, schools, everybody,” Benioff explains. “Anything that’s a key part of their ecosystem.”
Brady Corporation. This Wisconsin-based global leader in safety, identification and compliance solutions has long embraced the concepts of ESG to do its part in building a better and safer world.
Brady’s mission is to support community organizations that align with its core values. They’re dedicated to “winning the right way” through business practices that incorporate integrity and ethics. This forward-thinking company is committed to a culture of inclusion that promotes dignity and respect for all. In addition, it strives to be a good steward of the environment wherever its facilities are located.
Steps to become more purpose-driven
1. Think about how your company’s culture, values and skillsets contribute to society. A higher purpose needs to help the greater good, not just your customers and stakeholders. And it can’t be just words on a page – it must be supported by tangible actions that bring it to life.
That was the driving force behind Dairyland Electrical Industries’ Live Engaged initiative, a network for good, focused on living intentionally to positively impact the world. It’s rooted in four ways each person can positively impact the world:
- investing in yourself,
- Showing up for your circle,
- Strengthening your community, and
- Partnering to transform the world.
Kailey Dharam, Director of Culture & Formation at Dairyland Electrical Industries, says that Live Engaged was carefully developed to align closely with the company’s core values and the highest goals for the company, industry and humanity.
“Live Engaged is an expression of our values as a company. It’s a reimagining of the possibilities for doing good in the world and affirming the dignity of all people,” she explains. “We’re not using it to build business. We’re doing it to inspire ourselves and others in our industry to take the next step in being generous and intentional with their business.”
2. Articulate how your products support the world around you. Think about the unique ways your products are designed, manufactured and used to help everyone live better or more sustainable lives.
Bob Wendt, President of Heritage Printing in Brookfield, WI, took this to heart when Heritage donated $25,000 of free services to five charter schools in Milwaukee. “We’re a local business, and we wanted to support local organizations. It’s part of our culture to support the community that supports our business,” he emphasizes.
3. Express your innovation. In today’s world, a higher purpose is often supported by innovation, whether that’s technology or forward-thinking business practices. Consider what your business is already doing to make your products more sustainable, energy-efficient or environmentally friendly, such as using recycled or biodegradable packaging or incorporating recycled materials in your products.
Rytec® manufactures innovative, high-performance overhead doors that keep businesses operating efficiently throughout North America. The company supports many local community organizations around its Jackson, WI headquarters, and recently donated a door to the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. “This door helped them maintain operations and improve efficiency in receiving deliveries and donations,” says Michael Watkins, Vice President of Marketing at Rytec. “It’s important to support our local communities. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s good business.”
4. Take a stand on environmental or social issues. Strongly committing to environmental and cultural sustainability is not only the right thing to do. It will also engage your employees and help attract new talent. Plus, it will boost your standing with potential business partners and, critically, with your customers.
5. Invest in people. Developing criteria for how your company interacts with employees, prevents discrimination and communicates with customers, suppliers and the community will improve your operations and allow you to run your business more efficiently.
Cultivate Communications can help develop your brand around ESG initiatives. Contact us today if you’re ready to maximize your brand strength.