Being a values-led business means putting the causes that are close to the heart of the business at the centre of all decision making and strategy. Historically, values-led businesses have been a little before their time, in the sense that they have had to carve out consumer loyalty and educate mainstream markets toward their cause before they were fully understood. But times are changing. Investors, employees, and consumers alike are now taking greater care in selecting where their time and money is spent. People more broadly are becoming aware of global issues and social impacts that their behaviours contribute to, such as climate change, fair pay, discrimination, and wellbeing.

Pivoting to Purpose

In a recent article by the Financial Times, this ‘pivot to purpose’ has been described as strategically necessary to the success of future business. But it’s important for businesses to understand that they don’t need to be an expert in every aspect of ethical business practice. They can start with one core cause that they care about, that is relevant to their industry and to the common impacts that such an industry can contribute to, and to address, rectify and regenerate in that space. For example, Patagonia has become increasingly synonymous with regenerative practices in their area of retail. In an industry that is infamous for its negative impacts on the environment and working conditions of its supply chain, Patagonia has invested heavily in recycled materials, soil health, animal welfare and social fairness.

Increasingly, candidates for job openings are questioning the environmental, social and governance credentials of businesses before deciding to accept a job offer. This too is contributing to the shift toward values-led business models. But the balance to this incentive is ensuring that, regardless of the motivation behind becoming purpose driven, the efforts are genuine. Attempts to market as values-led that aren’t genuine are very easily recognised. This is because true values-led businesses inform their decision making by these core values. If these values are left behind at the first hurdle, it becomes immediately obvious to employees, consumers, investors and the general public that the declaration was just for show.

The Pay Off

The benefits to being truly values-led are only ever realised when the efforts are genuine. And making a genuine effort does not mean being perfect all of the time. It means transparency. Businesses must be open to sharing learnings – good and bad – along their journey toward betterment. Not only do values led-businesses create their own loyal customer bases and make connecting with similar networks much more simple, but it also opens businesses up to groups of consumers actively seeking out such businesses proactively in return.

Values-led businesses have also been shown to weather the storms of economic turbulence far more effectively than others. This is because this loyalty to cause is so valued by those connected to such brands. Everyday low pricing customers are not loyal to brands, but loyal to the lowest price – wherever that may be and whomever that may be with. But this is not the case in the values-led business world.

Summing it up

Increasingly, businesses, investors, employees, consumers and the general public are becoming more and more aware of the impacts that they have on the world around them. Simultaneously, movements of people are seeking to avoid brands that contribute to negative impacts, and actively seek out and support brands that contribute to giving back and providing positive benefits. There are many benefits to business, society, and the world around us by supporting such brands, and by becoming such a brand. And increasingly, good business and long term strategy dictate this stance to be a key component in the future of all business. The benefits to businesses are undeniable, and impressive when positioning purpose first. But these efforts must be genuine to realise the true effects. Attempting to present as a values-led business for marketing purposes only, quickly becomes obvious and has the opposite effect on business. To avoid the pitfalls of falling into this category, it is vital for businesses to understand that with genuine effort comes transparency. This means opening up your journey toward betterment to the public, and sharing learnings, both good and bad.