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Organizational Change
Win Inside to Win Outside:
Why Company Culture Is Key to Accelerating Your Sustainability Goals

Only 35% of consumers say that working for a purpose-led company is one of the ways that they engage in behaviors to improve their impact on the world. But 81% believe it’s important for their organization’s values to align to their own. We call this gap between values and action the Brand Culture Action Gap™.

Ask almost any modern consumer about their personal impact on the world; and chances are, they are already acutely aware of how their actions affect the planet and people around them. According to a recent study by Barkley, an independent creative idea company committed to knowing modern consumers better than anyone, 83 percent of consumers say living life with purpose and reducing impact on the world is important to them (Barkley 2019). We see this reflected in changing behaviors, such as recycling more and driving less, and in changing consumption habits. In fact, two-thirds of consumers say they look for products that help them live a more sustainable and socially responsible life.

Surprisingly, this sustainability-first mentality isn’t translating to all areas of modern consumers’ lives. Buying sustainable products is becoming a social norm, but being able to work for a sustainable company isn’t. Yet.

Only one-third (35 percent) say that working for a purpose-led company is one of the ways that they engage in behaviors to improve their impact on the world. Consumers may think it’s important for brands to operate sustainably, but they still don’t connect the dots between working for a purpose-led company as a way to reduce their impact.

On the other hand, 81 percent of consumers believe it’s important or very important for their organization’s values to align to their personal values (Barkley 2019). This gap between values and action is what we call the Brand Culture Action Gap™.

It raises questions. Is it that people check their personal values at the door when they go to work? Or is it that consumers haven’t had the opportunity or didn’t even know it was a possibility to live out their sustainable values at work?

Either way, it’s a challenge and a tipping point for modern brands. As consumer expectations of the brands they buy increase, it stands to reason that these expectations are soon to shift to the brands they work for, as well. And if brands don’t act soon to engage employees, they either risk a lack of engagement — leading to employee dissatisfaction, turnover and loss of reputation; or they risk not meeting their sustainability targets because the people who have the greatest impact on those results — employees — are not engaged in culturally relevant internal actions.

A brand’s employees are its greatest asset for representing what it stands for across the Whole Brand Spectrum, which means incorporating purpose into every aspect of their business — from inside business ideas to outside marketing ideas. And modern brands know that if they’re not thinking about what sustainability means for their brand culture, their biggest risk is losing the foundation that keeps them relevant with employees, prospects, stakeholders and consumers.

As modern consumers increasingly consider their personal impact on the world at home and at work, sustainability plans must be more than an executive-level strategy. They must live and be adopted at every level within the organization. Aligning sustainability commitments to brand culture is a critical first step to ensuring long-term success — inside and outside.

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