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A generation of leadership has failed to use brand power to do good, says O2 boss

By Jennifer Faull | Deputy Editor

March 31, 2015 | 4 min read

O2 chief executive Ronan Dunne believes that a generation of leaders have failed to leverage the power of their brands to positively contribute to society.

Speaking at The&Partnership 'Advocacy is the New Advertising' event in London, Dunne said: "Millenials have a different attitude to the balance of doing well and doing good. People of my generation think you do well first and then you do good. The younger generation are clear that you do them in pararell.“

Dunne claimed that over the past decade leadership in the corporate private sector has "fundamentally failed".

"We have been found out as a generation of leaders and corporates. So those of us that do get it need to haul ourselves to account to influence others. One of the things I’m convinced of is using the power of brand as a convening force for the power of good within the private sector."

Dunne suggested that to repair the damange of 10 years of "abject failure", chief executives and leaders have a responsibility to leverage their influence.

"Without a hint of arrogance, becuase O2 serves 24 million customers every day under a single brand – more than Coke, Barclays, any retailer – if I ask, people will see me at chairman level, at prime minister level. It’s a responsibility we have as a business to leverage that."

Dunne’s contribution has been O2’s sustainability and youth programme called Think Big which offers young people aged 13-25 years old funding, training and mentoring to kick-start ideas, build self-confidence and leadership skills and address key social issues in local communities.

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Commenting on the acquisition of O2 by Three owner Hutchison Whampoa, Dunne said the reputation of O2 has undoubtedly driven the monetary value of the business.

Also speaking on the panel was TalkTalk chief executive Dido Harding, who said when she joined the brand in 2010 it had a "huge amount to do" to improve the customer experience. However, her priority was to ensure her staff were advocates.

"You have to give your people a purpose beyond price," she said. "We needed a purpose beyond just being cheap and a set of core values that go beyond making money."

Harding cited its commitment to Child Internet Safety as something which has been important in establishing brand advocates in both its staff and customers.

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