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In 2024, Companies Will Embrace the "Four Cs": Predictions from the Purpose Collaborative

Each year, we ask members of the Purpose Collaborative for their predictions about purpose in the year ahead. While you can read the full article in FastCompany here, we had so many insightful responses this year that we wanted to share. Below, find the Collaborative's advice and insights on topics ranging from AI to climate change.


Artificial Intelligence

"Companies will need to get creative when it comes to expressing their brand purpose and marketing their brand values in 2024. AI and ChatGPT are forcing brand marketers to be more creative in our campaigns. Sometimes art is just art for art's sake, but sometimes it can serve a bigger purpose." Stephanie Belsky, Co-founder and CEO, Love of Good


"With the rise of AI and more demand for accountability and more efficient processes (streamlined working) there are some very attractive options open to companies—but the background, and the current climate's need to squeeze costs result in an often unethical story, that can often go ignored/forgotten." Sophia Story, Founder, 3 Sided Cube


"While it’s ripe with opportunities for positive social and environmental impact, AI’s threats to humanity are also well-documented. We will continue to see our society wrestle with understanding and addressing the potential risks to humanity and the environment in an effort to hopefully get ahead of it enough to ensure that this unstoppable new innovation is aligned with human values and environmental sustainability." Danielle Finck, Founder & CEO, Elle Communications


Climate

"Societal pressure for climate change action ramps up with regulation catching up. With the EU's Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive coming into force in January next year, corporate American eyes are also on the SEC ahead of its ESG rules. US companies have been living in limbo without clear direction or reporting standards since the SEC announced plans to bring out rules on climate-related disclosures in March 2023. Every major public company in 2024 should expect to have to measure and report on carbon footprint/emissions progress." Laurence Evans, CEO, Reputation Leaders


"The trend has been for purposeful companies to set climate goals as it pertains to carbon emissions in an effort to curb climate change in future, with most goals being set for 2050. However, climate change is here today and needs to be acted upon now. With this in mind, climate-prepared companies need not only help address the problem through measuring and reducing carbon emissions, but also through climate risk assessment (what impact is climate change having on your business today and in future?) and through climate adaptation (how does your business need to change today in a warming, natural-disaster prone world?)." Melissa Orozco, Founder & CEO, Yulu PR


"Progressive sponsors will start to leverage their influence with sports properties to start contributing in a more meaningful way towards building a sustainable future for the world. This is evidenced by initiatives like the Sports Sponsors Climate Pledge which was launched in 2023 by Change Now and 17 Sport and signed by sponsors Accor Group, EDF, Orange, and Sodexo, who all committed to demanding that the sports events they sponsor actually set science based carbon reduction objectives aligned with the Paris Agreement and certified by an independent third party." Neill Duffy, Chief Executive & Founder, 17 Sport


Conflict & Polarization

"The Israel-Hamas War is only the latest global disruption to which business leaders have had to respond, after a year filled with economic and political instability. Ahead of a presidential election in the US, we see no slowing in the demand for organizations needing to respond in real-time—often at the expense of the kind of structural purpose work needed to build real credibility." Robin Chung, Co-founder and Managing Partner, 18 Coffees


"The biggest challenge for purpose in 2024 will be navigating the increasingly polarized political landscape and complex societal issues. This will entail making tough decisions that balance stakeholder expectations, stay true to organizational values, and minimize risk." Kristian Merenda, Partner, Carol Cone ON PURPOSE


"The biggest challenge to progress and purpose is the growing misinformation online which is sowing seeds of confusion. The outcome of this misinformation is mistrust and polarization on one side, and apathy and disengagement on the other side. The need for clarity and accountability is palpable, and businesses will need to unveil their inner workings, showcasing how they authentically give back to their communities to cut through the misinformation, stand tall in their purpose, and actively engage in meaningful conversations." Melissa Orozco, Founder & CEO, Yulu PR


"The polarization of our society is absolutely the biggest challenge facing purpose in 2024. As we have seen over the past 3 years, consumers and employees have strong expectations for companies to get involved in issues and respond when a major crisis or injustice arises. And yet, because there is so much education and preparation that goes into thoughtfully responding to a given crisis, the risk of misstep is high—and the risk of staying silent and not acting can sometime be even higher." Laura Probst, Principal and Chief Strategist, Do Good: Make Money


Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

"The backlash against diversity and inclusion (DEI) will be a major theme. The supreme court ruling against university's prioritizing the admission of minority groups has had wider effects than just in academia. Business leaders are facing this same pressure. This has the potential to push back the DEI progress and make inequity more tolerated." Laurence Evans, CEO, Reputation Leaders


"Create a culture where purpose is an integral part of daily operations. Recent trends tying executive pay to better social outcomes for example reinforce the organization’s commitment to being socially responsible.

For example, Microsoft has linked executive compensation to diversity and inclusion goals."

Robin Chung, Co-founder and Managing Partner, 18 Coffees


"ERGs do not equate to a DEIB strategy, but in 2024 it may be the only way. Too often, we see Employee Resource Groups doing the majority of the heavy lifting in order to internally—and occasionally externally—showcase a company's values and inclusion efforts. Don't get me wrong, ERGs are critically important to a company's culture, but the point of ERGs is for employees to feel supported by their employer, not exploited." Stephanie Belsky, Co-founder and CEO, Love of Good


"Pay your employees for their social impact work. Period. Employees will commonly take on unpaid volunteer roles as leaders of committees around sustainability efforts, employee volunteerism opportunities, run various Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), serve on philanthropic boards for corporate foundations, and spearhead health and wellbeing concerns at their place of work, out of the goodness of their heart and while working their full-time job. This is not acceptable. While this may be an employee’s passion, it should really come from leadership and in a time when Chief Impact Officers and DEIB positions and budgets are being cut, and to keep these previous initiatives going, leadership will have no choice but to compensate employees for picking up the slack. Furthermore, if a company is legitimately committed to becoming more social impact oriented, then they must be willing to invest in a team and services to help them understand benchmarks needed towards becoming a more conscious and inclusive company and start implementing best practices." Stephanie Belsky, Co-founder and CEO, Love of Good


ESG

"The biggest challenge is noise in the system. There is a lot of questioning of whether ESG is dead, about green-washing alongside a political divide that often makes it seem like you can't win. Smart companies will see the signal beyond the noise. An authentic story of good, told consistently, will still win loyalty." Dr. John Izzo, Izzo Associates

“Many public companies are already stepping away from ESG language as they feel it’s too polarizing. The risk that comes with this is that businesses won’t have an umbrella framework for which they can set targets to perform better on environmental, social, and governance matters.” Melissa Orozco, Founder & CEO, Yulu PR


“With this year's flurry of regulatory action, many ESG teams are finding themselves buried in paperwork and compliance activities. This leaves less space for the more time-intensive but ultimately more impactful change management efforts needed to evolve the core culture of our businesses. Jessica Marati Radparvar, Reconsidered


“If we look at the regulations coming in Europe it's only a matter of time before they hit North America. Every company needs to get in front of this and place greater attention, due diligence and storytelling on their environmental, social and governance impact.” Phillip Haid, Founder & CEO, Public


"The continuing intentional conflating of ESG goal-setting, reporting and progress with “woke capitalism” and all things Purpose will continue to drive marketplace confusion and stymie brands’ efforts to communicate effectively, even when we know consumers still want to support brands that share their values. This underscores the need for more data-driven consumer insights to be baked into marcomms planning." Aaron Pickering, EVP & Global Head of Purpose; Founder & Co-Lead, Allison / Headstand Purpose Center of Excellence


MarComms

"As Sir David Attenborough famously said in 2021, “Saving our planet is now a communications challenge. We know what to do, we just need the will,” and I believe the companies that are truly committed to making real change on our planet, and are living examples of their purpose in 2024, will follow in these footsteps and combine forces and resources to better measure their return on impact, align themselves and invest in organizations that are serving as boots on the ground, and be transparent and accountable to their employees, customers, and the planet by taking action." Stephanie Belsky, Co-founder and CEO, Love of Good


"We expect to see a significant investment in values-based marketing, and a return to fundamentals such as the seven most basic human needs. How are companies and the products and services they create helping people live healthier, happier lives? How are those same companies supporting the communities where they operate? We can expect to see increasing scrutiny on all aspects of brand communications, so authenticity and transparency will be more important than ever." Aaron Pickering, EVP & Global Head of Purpose; Founder & Co-Lead, Allison / Headstand Purpose Center of Excellence


"Increased cynicism of ‘greenwashing’ or ‘purpose washing’ are becoming the norm. Brands and organizations need to rise to the occasion, demonstrating transparency, clarity and accountability on their pillars of corporate purpose. The state of purpose for businesses in 2024 will revolve around a commitment to transparency and genuine societal impact, setting a high standard for corporate responsibility in a world increasingly hungry for authenticity." Melissa Orozco, Founder & CEO, Yulu PR

"With the rise of green hushing companies are dragging their feet on what they say and when they say it. While others are seizing the opportunity and communicating/engaging their key stakeholders in their efforts. Finding the right balance for your company is a challenge most are facing. Too much could risk some increased criticism. Too little could risk falling behind." Phillip Haid, Founder & CEO, Public

"Brands should not forget about the Baby Boomers who still have the largest discretionary income and will be the longest lived, wealthiest and largest group of elders in human history in the developed world. As a generation they see these years as less a time to relax as a new chapter on life. A lot of that will be about being useful and serving. Smart brands won't forget the Boomers as consumers and activists." Dr. John Izzo, Izzo Associates


"Brands will have to work overtime to break through to consumers in 2024. Media buying will be more expensive, and the volume of the US political discussion will drown out the routine marketing messaging and tactics. Brands That are adept at communicating their purpose and positive impact can win by reaching out to the audiences that care most about issues and engagement - Gen Z and Millennials. " Chris Noble, Partner, Matchfire


"The sustainability communications landscape has changed dramatically over the past year. Companies should stop thinking of ways to 'market sustainability' but rather focus their efforts on honesty and transparency. With so much shifting in the ESG landscape, in-house sustainability leaders will need to cultivate an ecosystem of external experts to help them make sense of it all. This might mean engaging the right constellation of external consultants, or building community with fellow practitioners who are grappling with the same issues you are. Remember: you don't have to go at it alone." Jessica Marati Radparvar, Founder, Reconsidered


"Consumers still aren’t hearing compelling narratives that showcase the full range of actions purposeful companies are taking to meet their social and environmental impact goals. Brand marketers will need to take a more holistic approach to authentic storytelling with stories that resonate with consumers on an emotional level, inspiring them to choose purposeful brands. Now more than ever, especially given our politically divisive climate, marketers have a responsibility to educate consumers about the importance of choosing purposeful brands. This can be done by highlighting the big picture goals, and authentic positive impact brands are actually having on communities and the planet. By providing consumers with knowledge and insights earlier in the buying cycle, marketers can empower them to make conscious purchasing decisions." Laura Ferry, President and CEO, Good Company


Measurement

"Quantifying the social or environmental impact of any purpose initiative remains challenging. The lack of standardized metrics and tools can make it difficult to measure success, secure budget, or communicate impact to stakeholders. Many social impact solutions work well at a small scale but face challenges when trying to expand and measure their impact to a larger audience or different regions." Robin Chung, Co-founder and Managing Partner, 18 Coffees


"With ESG regulation and reporting requirements on the rise, you might think the focus on environmental sustainability would take center stage. But as I have repeatedly heard from the VC community this year, the ESG factor they really pay attention to are social efforts (the “S”). Although much of the benchmarks focus on environmental and governance factors, social impact initiatives continue to be the most differentiating aspect of brands for those looking to invest capital. As a result, I predict we will see more standards in social impact measurement from ESG benchmarking organizations and more tools that make tracking, evaluating, and upleveling the range of impact accessible to investors. And as those standards and benchmarks are shared, we will see a proliferation of case studies and reports that will help all purpose driven leaders better focus their social impact programs." Laura Probst, Principal and Chief Strategist, Do Good: Make Money


Purpose

"People think purpose and sustainability are optional extras. For businesses that want to exist in 10-15 years, they aren't. But it's easier to pretend that they are." Rahul Chandran, Managing Partner, Upswing Solutions


"While purpose is a business strategy, it also requires hope and optimism to truly embed in an organization. I think 2024 is going to be another challenging year for the environment and society, so leaders will need to maintain a steady hand at the purpose tiller." Annie Longsworth, Founder, Siren Agency


"Get more specific with your purpose statement. Too many companies have generic purpose statements that neither differentiate nor rally their teams. Specificity will make your purpose more relevant to key audiences. Set your purpose ambition for 2024. Something audacious, inspiring and captivating that will excite your employees, customers, shareholders and partners. Identify 3-4 core issues that are material to your business and society, align to your purpose ambition, and then leverage as much of your business as possible to them (products, services, talent, etc)." Phillip Haid, Founder & CEO, Public


"When stating your brand's purpose, always ensure that the purpose directly aligns with your brand, and consumers can see an organic and relatable connection. Take a long-term view, and market with longevity in mind as opposed to one-off, pro-social campaigns that change year-to-year. When brand budgets are cut, often purpose-based initiatives and marketing campaigns are the first to go because even though they might improve perception and awareness, the initiatives often cannot be directly linked to product sales." Marcus Peterzell, CEO, and Amy Slotnick, SVP, Passion Point Collective


"While the pressures to deliver on your mission or bottom line in an ever connected, competitive world are high, it doesn’t mean that you have to be an expert at everything. Focus on a few, or even just one thing, that is mission-critical and be really excellent at that. Know that there are all sorts of interesting partners you can work with, from brilliant DEIB consultants to strategic communicators to issue-area experts and beyond, in order to solidify and enhance your positive impact on society." Silvie Snow Thomas, Elle


"Seeing social impact work as the great unifier that will require brand coalitions to come together around shared causes. Asking the tough question, how do we do more with fewer resources and a shared vision? These campaigns and commitments will set up more win/win scenarios for brands and consumers across all industries in 2024." Stephanie Belsky, Co-founder and CEO, Love of Good


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