The connection between Purpose + Sustainability.

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The following article is reprinted from Barkley's State of Purpose 2023 How-to Guide.

In the minds of your stakeholders, your brand is every action it takes — from how you treat your employees to how you interact with consumers, other stakeholders, and the world. The good news? Operate your business as a unified whole, drive it from a core belief, and fuel it with purpose, and it evolves into something much greater than the sum of its parts: a whole brand, those that dominate the market and hearts of consumers and employees alike.

What do we mean by purpose? Purpose is not an isolated idea or a marketing tactic; it is an everything tool, an ideology that can and should guide and inspire everything your brand does, inside and out, from strategy to the culture of your organization. Such actions lead to extraordinary plus points — such as an engaged workforce and consumer base, better innovation, stronger stakeholder relationships, and increased revenue and brand equity. 

“Purpose and sustainability must be rooted in authenticity, integrated into organizational culture, and consistently measured. Ultimately, the choices a brand makes to demonstrate its purpose must be visible, intentional, consistent, and meaningful to stakeholders.” — Ken Beaulieu, SVP, Center for Brand Purpose, ANA

Purpose-led brands are strengthened through sustainability thinking

And since we define purpose as why your brand exists beyond profit, then sustainability is the how: How are you proving your purpose to the world? Sustainability is balancing the profitability of your organization with its impact on people, planet, and communities. Sustainability can inform the development or evolution of your brand purpose, helping you identify the most important contribution you can make to society, but its value is far greater than that. It requires you to explore the whole measure of your impact — both risks and opportunities. While your brand purpose can focus on one or two key areas, to be a whole brand you need to understand its full impact. This enables you to be resilient because you anticipate and activate against key risks. And, in today’s always-on, digital world,  your company reputation is only as strong as your weakest action. 

Win inside to win outside™

If you’re going to operate as a holistic system, as a whole brand, then your purpose must power your sustainability commitments, and your sustainability commitments need to be comprehensive and embedded in your organization. Bring them to life in your organization’s routines and traditions, educate your product teams, and infuse them into your customer experience. Learn more about your supply chain and vendor partnerships as well as their views on sustainable business practices. Then, empower your sales and marketing teams to understand what parts of your sustainability strategy are most relevant to your customers and consumers — and tell your stories to exhibit your commitment to both your brand purpose and your sustainability initiatives, as they should mutually reinforce each other.

Consumers want evidence of your brand's positive impact 

Modern consumer behavior is changing: after the events of the past several years, people want to live more sustainability — and they expect brands to make this easier for them. They aren’t just looking at your advertising to make their purchasing decisions — they’re highly connected, with info at their fingertips. They want proof and evidence of impact, whether that be anecdotal or measurable indicators that show you put action behind your words. They can quickly see how others are talking about you in your social channels, ratings, reviews, or whether you’re a bad employer. They’re using all of that information in their decision-making process. 

Developing a sustainability strategy is how you set yourself up to engage with key audiences across your brand and build resilience into your business. It should support your brand purpose by making it more meaningful and actionable. And it can connect your brand with modern consumers, employees, and all stakeholders. This work isn’t easy but it’s important: it can align your organization and connect you with consumers in powerful ways — because the more your purpose powers your commitments to people, planet, and community, the more inspired your brand culture is to deliver profit and continuous impact.  


Our dedicated Impact Team helps brands define their unique purpose, then develop transformational strategies that ignite behavioral change inside and outside. This approach creates an authentic connection with people in a way that fuels profit and growth, and leaves a positive impact on the world.

Need help building the business case for a sustainability strategy for your brand? Contact us for a customized consultation. Contact: Lindsey DeWitte, EVP, Purpose + Sustainability, Barkley

Additional Resources

Download the State of Purpose 2023 Report How-To Guide

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