Societal concerns around the environment, inequality, diversity and inclusion are causing brands to re-think their impact and core purpose.
Just this week, The Financial Times – not exactly known as a bastion of left-wing thought – put brand purpose at the heart of its new journalistic agenda, declaring that “The long-term health of free enterprise capitalism will depend on delivering profit with purpose”.
But how can brands find the balance between delivering profit alongside sustainable outcomes for the people and environment in which they operate?
If this is the central question facing business today, Tom Kay, founder of outdoor apparel brand Finisterre, might have found at least some of the answers.
At the Annual IPA Evening Event for the South West he told his story, all the way from one-man-band ordering material swatches in a flat above a surf shop to award-winning brand with nine stores and partnerships with global fashion giants like VANS.
A genuine entrepreneur, Tom spoke passionately about Finisterre’s journey and his guiding vision, his ‘true north: a quality product that’s functional, sustainable and produced to the highest ethical standards.
Whilst many brands now make these claims, this was no ‘woke-washing’. Tom had plenty of examples to back up the rhetoric.
Like investing in a Devonshire sheep farm in order to establish a local source of fine-fibred wool to replace the merino shipments from New Zealand and therefore reduce the environmental impact of transportation.
And the research program undertaken with Exeter university to develop a replacement for the traditional neoprene wetsuits that can’t be recycled.
Or undergoing a rigorous assessment of Finisterre’s societal, cultural and environmental impact in order to gain a B-corp certification – the global standard for ethical business.
These initiatives might well prove to make financial sense, but they’re done out of a worldview - ‘doing business in the right way’, as Tom puts it - rather than cold, hard economics.
Indeed, he was clear that short term results are often compromised in aid of doing the right thing, and that Finisterre might have grown more slowly because of that.
Successfully combining purpose with profit seems to require a genuine passion for your industry, a drive to do things differently and – above all - a willingness to put your money where your mouth is.
For marketers hoping to transform their own business into a truly purpose-led organization, there’s an awful lot to learn from Finisterre.
If you’d like to discuss your brand’s purpose and understand how we help businesses bring their purpose to life get in touch.