Last week the top 100 companies index for ‘brand purpose’ was published. Unsurprisingly, given their long term deep commitment to CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), Unilever topped the table. Their CMO Keith Weed commented:
One of our core beliefs is that you cannot have a healthy business in an unhealthy society.
Importantly consumers want brands with purpose too. And according to Nielsen, are prepared to pay for them, with those Unilever brands communicating on sustainability, outpacing the global average with a 10% increase in sales.
Gone are the days though, of company volunteers tidying up a patch of inner city wasteland or donating a few quid to the local charity, nice as it is to do these things. Today’s CSR heavyweights want to make a global impact on issues affecting the citizens of the world, not just their back yard. Tackling obesity, climate change and sanitation by activating their most powerful assets – their brands!
So how do they go about it? Well, rather than trying to do it on their own they’re adopting more of a twenty-first century attitude to problem solving. The start-up revolution has begun, with the way forward being crowdsourcing, and investment in entrepreneurial ventures that change the world.
Now that our London studio is a hop, skip and jump from Old Street’s Silicon roundabout, this change in attitude is positively palpable. Only the other week I was lucky enough to be invited along to an inspiring afternoon at The Bakery. Not for coffee and cake, they’re not that type of bakery, but to receive elevator pitches from a range of tech start-ups. Innovation speed dating, if you like. The Bakery is all about building bridges between brands and tech start-ups.
They’re not alone in this thinking. Coca-Cola even has a VP of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, in David Butler. These days the brightest big companies are self-aware enough to realise that archaic business processes are the killer – just ask Blockbuster. Butler’s approach is a simple one, like all good ideas. Coca-Cola has scale, it’s been building billion dollar brands for well over 100 years, what it lacked was agility. And of course, what a start-up has is bags of agility, but no scale. Win-win, put the two together and the result is the Coca-Cola Founders platform, a new model for creating seed-stage start-ups.
It seems a new age of collaboration is dawning. Big and small can come together to do amazing things. Like Unilever and Upworthy who partnered to create brightFuture, a forum to inspire more people to make positive changes that can build a sustainable future. Cassandra Lin, a 16-year-old change-maker being a case in point, who says:
Young people are the now generation.
At just 10 years old, she founded TGIF, an organisation to Turn Grease Into Food. With help from her friends and local community, Cassandra devised a scalable model for turning waste cooking oil from local restaurants into fuel for poor families in her area.
With the rise of the ‘big start-up’ the future does indeed look bright.