Brands with a higher purpose

Let’s face it, most of us in the business world have been conditioned to worship the all-mighty dollar.  Now, perhaps not in such a literal way (although some actually do worship money…check out the movie Margin Call by Lionsgate), but we are taught that a successful business is driven by profit.  And so it goes, the more profit, the more success.  So, in light of all of the Occupy Wall St. uproar and continued decline of the dollar on the world-front, I thought it appropriate to talk about something, dare I say, more important. There are a few brands out there that have made a long-term effort to be about something more than where they sit in the Fortune 500 rankings. Brands with a higher purpose.  Products and services that are solid, even industry leaders, but give something back to the communities they serve.

Check out Starbucks. In their efforts to stimulate job creation, they have pledged to donate at least $100,000 of profits annually from two Starbucks stores in low-income areas to boost jobs in those communities.  And food giant Nestle trains farmers, who are under no obligation to sell their ingredients to Nestle, and makes microfinance loans available to farmers.  These are two huge, international brands that have most certainly found their way into the Fortune 500 fold, but are retrenching a bit and recognize the importance, both on a humanistic and marketing level, of doing something good.

The apparel industry is not without its “do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do” players. Patagonia has made a career of taking a realistic approach to sustainability. Their approach means that what they make and how they make it must cause the least harm to the environment goes to great pains to support grassroots green measures, but does not jeopardize the quality and integrity of their performance based products. Apparel company prAna has developed a Natural Power Initiative and offers ways in which you can calculate and reduce your own household emissions. So a little bit of good news out there. As the business marketplace moves closer towards being a comprehensive social experience, the responsibility falls upon brands to be more defined in terms of what they stand for and how they communicate to their community of customers.  In a sense, does the burden of responsibility also fall upon the shoulders of the consumer? What can we do to reward the good ones?  In the end, the most powerful support we can offer to these brands that are creating great product and offering great service for the right reasons is to spend money on them.  Sound ironic? Perhaps. But not really. It is as simple as making thoughtful, targeted purchases that are not exclusively defined by low-cost. Sometimes value transcends your ability to save a buck.

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