78% of execs believe their businesses are failing to deliver on social purpose pledges

Businesses fail to match fine words on social purpose with good deeds

A survey of 1,417 business executives carried out by The Economist Group at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity has highlighted a disparity between expressed ideals and actions, with 78% believing that while many talk a good game they are failing to follow through with long-term initiatives that might make spoken desires a reality.

This absence of follow-through comes despite the fact that close to half (48%) of all respondents felt that operating with social purpose conferred a competitive advantage over their peers, raising the prospect of a consumer backlash against companies where warm words haven’t translated into action.

Hammering home the importance of purpose the survey found that 70% of those quizzed said it was a factor to them personally when choosing where to work, rather more than the 63% who state their current employer is strongly committed to good causes.

These discrepancies are even more stark when the opinion of female respondents is taken in isolation with the numbers supportive of social initiatives jumping from 73% overall to 87% among women - a so-called gender purpose gap.

Mark Cripps, chief marketing officer of The Economist Group, remarked: “Whilst there are some who see social purpose as a gimmick, these results make it clear that many business executives recognise the value of acting with social purpose, but we also see a noticeable disconnect in the action being taken.

“Acting with purpose influences staff recruitment and their well-being; it influences how stakeholders and partners interact with companies and with all else being equal, in certain product categories, it influences how consumers perceive products and brands. If we are to undertake them, we need to redefine how we measure the value that these programmes generate to ensure that our measurement models are capturing the full impact on the business and the brand.”

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