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Social Purpose Now a Key Driver in Canadians’ Purchasing Decisions

Nine in ten Canadians (92 percent) would switch brands if a different brand of a similar quality had a compelling social purpose, according to new research from Kin&Co. The firm’s new report — which looks exclusively at the Canadian market — outlines an opportunity for Canada to lead the purpose and values revolution that has insofar been primarily led by companies in the US and UK.

Doing well by doing good” seems to be increasingly important to Canadians when considering purchasing decisions, employment choices and their productivity at work. Of those polled by not-for-profit applied research organization The Conference Board of Canada on behalf of Kin&Co, 87 percent said they would pay more for products and services from a company with a social purpose, 79 percent would consider leaving their job for a similar one at an organization with a social purpose and strong values, and 85 percent would be more motivated at work if their employer had a social purpose.

“This research leaves no room for ambiguity — Canadians want companies to be more driven by a purpose beyond making profit and a clear set of values,” said Rosie Warin, CEO of Kin&Co and author of the research report. “As a country, Canada is recognized worldwide for its longstanding, strong values; welcoming refugees and immigrants, gender equity, taking great strides to reconcile with Indigenous communities and ramping up its efforts to tackle climate change.”

Despite strong progress on social and political issues, Canadian businesses seem to be lagging when it comes to reaping the rewards of embedding values and purpose in their organizations. Kin&Co looked at the S&P/TSX 60 (60 large companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange) and found that only 15 percent of companies listed on the have a clearly articulated purpose. Another 40 percent leave room for improvement; they allude to having a purpose in their mission statement or corporate description, but they aren’t expressly using the language of purpose. The remaining 45 percent of companies seem to have “the sole goal of maximizing shareholder value,” according to Kin&Co.

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The report, “Purpose, eh? How Canada can lead the way,” was designed to help business leaders on their journey to discovering, embedding and communicating their company’s purpose, or those hoping to influence their senior management to do so. Its release coincides with the launch of Kin&Co’s Canadian operations, which will be headed up by Wendy Mitchell, formerly of The Conference Board of Canada.

“Not only are companies without a purpose alienating their customers, employees, and suppliers, they are damaging Canada’s reputation as a whole,” said Mitchell. “If Canada is to become the purpose and values leader of the world, we’ll need the business sector to rise to the challenge and help tackle some of society’s greatest problems head on.”

The report provides examples of embedded purpose in practice among Canadian companies such as Nature’s Path, North America’s largest independent organic breakfast and snack food brand, and CPA Canada, the national organization that leads the country’s professional accounting profession and designations. Kin&Co has also worked with companies to find, live and communicate their purpose, such as Danone as it evolved into the world’s largest B Corp. In terms of general advice, the consultancy has three main recommendations for brands trying to get things off the ground:

  1. Involve your employees. Make it both a top-down and bottom-up process, where everyone is excited and involved from the start.
  2. Do not make it a marketing exercise. Don’t rush to communicate your purpose before you’ve established how your organization will live its purpose internally.
  3. Do not approach purpose like it is a strategy cascade. Do your research, speak to those who have done it well, and embrace the emotional aspects of purpose to properly find, live and communicate it.