How a Clear Purpose Can Drive Growth

3 min read
Oct 9, 2023 6:51:29 AM

When it comes to growth, it's important to include your point of view on it. Are you for untrammelled capitalism, simply giving the market ‘what it needs’ or do you believe that your business or brand is also here to take a stand on something, to have a point of view and then do something about it?

Being clear on your purpose beyond making more money (not that money isn't important too!) has helped Danone grow in a way that is good for People, Planet and Profit. Here, you can discover more about that, with extracts from our conversation with Lorna Davis, now a Social Mission Board Member for Seventh Generation, Ted Speaker and Coach. At the time of our interview, Lorna was Danone Chief Manifesto Catalyst and DanoneWave CEO, Danone board member and Global Ambassador for B-Lab.

What does Purpose mean?

"For me, it’s a pretty simple definition: it’s about having a point of view. For a long time, big companies haven’t taken a stand on things – they’ve just hidden behind giving the market what it needs.

I don’t buy that any more. All of us who are here to sell products and services need to have a point of view, and it needs to be something with real meaning. When you’re taking a point of view on a real issue it can be scary, but it makes you distinctive. It can drive meaningful action, which isn’t just about making the world a better place: it can also help you grow your business faster."

Which brands or companies inspire you most?

‘The obvious one is Patagonia – the outdoor clothing company. Their purpose is at the heart of everything they do: reducing the environmental footprint of the clothing they sell. This goes beyond looking at their supply chain, as they want people to use their products for longer and work hard to convince other companies to do the same.

"Campaigns with a really clear purpose include Channel 4’s Superhumans, and Always’ Like a Girl"


How can you make it happen?

‘When we were working through this with Oxford, we thought about the process as ‘the five Cs’ – the essentials you need to transform an organisation through purpose:

Context means your purpose needs to work with your brand’s history. We’ve worked hard to tie together our founders’ story, our last 50 years of progress, and the purpose which we’re relying on now. We’ve got over 100,000 people, and this needs to feel as authentic to our most junior people as it does to our most senior.

Content demands a level of rigour, using frameworks, tools and techniques to unlock the best thinking.

Competence means embedding the purpose throughout the business. It should be at the very heart of the brand positioning, and it should inspire your innovations. Marketers need to lead the way in this journey.

Collaboration with experts is essential: it’s something you can’t do on your own. For us, we’ve been working with Oxford to help find the balance between something that can inspire people but also give them pragmatic guidance.

‘And Curiosity is about seeing the world from the outside looking in, learning continuously and challenging yourself.’

Why does it matter?

"There are three ways of thinking about this. Some people think of it as the right thing to do. Some see it as a competitive advantage. And others say if you’re not doing it, you’ll be left behind. For me, all three are true – and it doesn’t really matter what your reasons are as long as you’re taking a stance."

Collaborating with our clients, like Lorna is always just that – collaborative. We’re often referred to by clients as an extension of their team, seamlessly interlinked. It’s because we’ve been there too, our teams have all worked in positions client-side, and we understand the challenges you face.

Tackling Brand Purpose – the Oxford way

Oxford helps organisations by working in partnership. Our experience enables us to challenge you positively and to make meaningful change. Our approach to change management and capability is focused on driving growth that’s good for people and planet as well as profit . If you like the sound of the way that we work, do get in touch.

About the Author

Carol is a Practice Head at Oxford, with a single objective of delivering behaviour change with consumers, customers, colleagues and citizens.   

If you’re interested in learning more about Corporate Social Responsibility, Good Growth, and how your business could become a force for good for people, planet and profit, please get in touch.  


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