One of the growing trends I have noticed in foodservice and hospitality communications is the increased interest by companies to communicate their social good beliefs and initiatives. While social purpose and innovation is not something new, you would be half blind not to notice that social enterprises and campaigning is rapidly gaining momentum.
Ever since Simon Sinek produced his Golden Circle Ted Talk, the industry has opened its eyes on how important it is for businesses to communicate their beliefs as a brand. His whole argument is that purchase intent is driven by the ‘why’ not for the ‘what and how’. Since this talk, many forward-thinking companies have put this new communication approach into practice and are reaping the benefits as a result. From increased sales and loyalty to higher rates of enquiries and engagement, there is ample data to confirm this profit-generating potential. Forbes reports that more than half (51%) of consumers want to reward responsible companies by shopping there and 53% would pay a 10% premium for products from a responsible company. It is now no secret that performance with purpose helps drive business growth.
This theory has become so popular that on purpose communications has become a crowded and competitive space. Marketing Week now publishes a ranking of industry leaders who are doing an excellent job of bringing their social good vision and values to life. Unilever, for example, takes the top spot for its vision to ‘make sustainable living commonplace’ with its ‘Foundry Idea’ initiative, a global crowdsourcing programme set up to solve sustainability issues in the areas of sanitation, hygiene, and nutrition while Nestlé ranked 5th for its social value commitment, receiving industry praise for Häagen-Dazs’s support of honey bee research, Nespresso’s ‘ecolaboration’ programme and Purina’s recycling efforts. Both companies have promoted the fact that their social responsibility programmes have had a positive commercial effect. For example, Unilever’s brands have outpaced the global average with a 10% increase in sales for those communicating on sustainability, according to Nielsen. Despite sceptics, the financial rewards versus the costs of smart social responsibility are significant.
Whilst some suggest that the shift of big corporate communication is down to new social value theories, others believe that millennials are the catalysts to an increase in social enterprise as they are more likely to invest in brands which are helping communities, families or the planet. This is coupled by young, savvy entrepreneurs who are now emerging and building businesses which help to address social problems. It is hard not to be inspired by the growing number of organisations who are designed to better benefit society. In Britain, we are starting to see an increase in the number of social enterprise businesses operating from five years ago. Social Bite, the sandwich business which donates all profit towards solving social problems, gained lots of publicity with visits from Leonardo DiCaprio and George Clooney. While The Big Issue’s new coffee brand, Change Please, won a Cannes Lion communications award for making a difference to lives of homeless people across London. With over 57 pieces of national and regional press, it is hard to question the public’s interest in inspirational stories where acts of kindness make the world a better place.
From consulting social start-ups to large corporates on their social communications strategy, I feel optimistic and inspired by the direction our sector is heading. I see an increase interest in brands to do the right thing to make a positive difference to society. One example is Bidfood’s popular plate2planet Live! summit, which rallies influencers from across the foodservice sector to address some of the most pressing sustainability issues facing the industry. Likewise, Nestlé Professional’s thought leadership platform, BuzzBites, is designed to be a catalyst to bring foodservice experts together to shine a light on innovative topics that drive the sector socially forward. For example, talent will be a key topic for the industry in 2018 seeing that Brexit is anticipated to create a shortfall of 60,000 workers a year. As a result, Nestlé Professional spearheaded an initiative to gather insights on how foodservice professionals can best attract, upskill and retain talent and CSR innovation is a big part of it. Study after study has shown that consumers and employees prefer to purchase from and work for companies that are invested in social and environmental responsibility.
I anticipate that we will continue to see social good scale in the coming years. Corporations will become creative problem solvers and the role of the CSO will expand as they will become more accountable to lead strategic change initiatives. We will also see more innovative purpose driven business models launch as well as social impact becoming a key driver for a company’s pro-social programmes. Resource efficiency will once again become the new buzz word, as with a growing population and ever-rising demand for resources, it is becoming more necessary to find ways to eliminate waste and reuse valuable materials endlessly. Last, but not least I expect we will see bigger investments from corporations interested in telling compelling, multidimensional stories about who they are and why social impact is core to their identity.
Who will play the lead role in social change in the future? I am keen to see who steps up as sector leaders on this front in the next few years. As interest in social responsibility snowballs it will make for an interesting race, but a race with purpose means that all participants have won.
An Era for Social Innovation – Ones to Watch
1. Breadwinners – a unique bread deliver service which empowers the unemployed.
2. Vegware – a visionary brand, and the only completely compostable packaging company operating globally.
3. Veolia – the UK environmental solutions leader. Waste, water and energy services designed to build the circular economy.
4. BRITA – on a mission to make the plastic bottle as unacceptable as the plastic bag.
5. Social Bite – recently spearheaded the world’s largest sleep-out, Sleep in the Park, a landmark charity event featuring Liam Gallagher, Bob Geldof and John Cleese, in a bid to raise £4 million.
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