There’s a new wave of research that is measuring whether companies’ purpose matches their actions. What it’s found my not be surprising: Globally, there is a purpose-action gap among corporate brands.
“It’s time to move from thought leadership to action leadership,” said Charlotte West, director at Business in the Community, a responsible business network in the UK. “We can genuinely make the world a better place by practically embedding purpose in our brands. And a good, resilient purpose should have sustainability at its heart.”
On one end of the spectrum, there are several brands that seem to get ahead of themselves, touting sustainability and purpose before they action it. On the other end, there are more cautious companies that are doing more but not communicating it well.
“There are a few companies, like IKEA, that are totally aligned,” Richards said. “IKEA’s story is quite a powerful, democratic statement and there is absolute alignment between what they say and what they do.”
To close the purpose-action gap, West and Richards proposed that companies focus on developing authentic leadership, collaborating on purpose campaigns with partners in other sectors, and developing leaders at all levels by involving employees in strategy development.
There was also a call to action for companies to measure whether they are actually having an impact on the issues they seek to address. Sustainability leaders are in a unique position to host conversations on accountability and begin to measure how aligning purpose may benefit the company’s overall performance.