Purpose Before Profit

by Dr Marceline Lemarie, Chairperson of World Marketing Summit Malaysia 2013

Knowledge is power and with close to 40% of the population having access to information via the Internet, informed consumers are becoming an increasingly powerful activist movement. News or experiences about a company’s products and services, whether good or bad, travel within seconds across the globe via blogs, social media platform, chats and forums for all to see.

Because of the increasing speed and reach in which information can travel, more so now than ever, companies have to listen to its customers. If customers demand something, companies either have to provide it or face certain demise. This is a fundamental principle. The final decision to buy or not, ultimately lies with the customer. This decision is crucial in the sense that a choice needs to be made. Every day the customer makes choices.

So, it is interesting to ask, if given a choice, will the customer choose a product from a company that puts purpose before profit?

As society evolves into one that embraces sustainability and concern for humanity and the environment, so too must companies. Corporate responsibility needs to move away from charity & philanthropy to engagement and empowerment. According to Edelman’s goodpurpose study involving 8,000 adults from 16 countries, the power of purpose is driving consumer preference. In 2012, 76% of global consumers believe it is acceptable for brands to support good causes and make money at the same time – this is a 33% increase globally from 2008. For them, values are the new currency; purpose is the new paradigm.

With this paradigm shift in the mindset of consumers, the time is ripe for companies, especially SMEs, to relook purpose.

Why SMEs? Most of these companies want to have a purpose and contribute to society but do not know how and may not have the time and money to do so. They may also want something in return.

Under the auspices of the World Marketing Summit Malaysia 2013, we are initiating Project 8 BILLION where SMEs with a strong local presence and which have  multiple product lines and their own distribution channels will dedicate a specific product line which will be co-branded with the 8 BILLION brand. The 8 BILLION brand will be launched during the World Marketing Summit Malaysia 2013 in Kuala Lumpur from 28 September – 30 September.

In exchange for using the 8 BILLION brand, these participating SMEs will put aside a percentage of profits to be channeled to an independently operated trust fund. This trust fund will focus on key development areas for mostly underprivileged Malaysian children which include the following:

  1. Strategic tie-up with sports associations to use sport for promoting not only education but values such as respect, racism and fair-play
  2. Employ medical NGOs to teach first aid skills to caretakers of orphanages as the first line of medical emergency in cases where medical facilities are not easily reached
  3. Working with institutions of higher learning of the world to send aspiring teachers to help further improve the  education of the underprivileged children in neglected local communities in key subjects like English, Math and Science. Both these groups will benefit – the foreign students will gain overseas and cross cultural experiences and the orphans will benefit from education of a certain quality and exposure to different learnings.

The benefits to the SMEs are enormous – they will be able to give back to local communities and at the same time will be able to elevate their brands through the 8 BILLION brand umbrella. The 8 BILLION brand and the good work that these companies do will be transmitted via the media and online networks it becomes the brand of choice for the new generation of consumers.

Through these efforts we will be able to tackle real and focused socio-economic issues raised by the United Nations under its 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Program which is focused on three major areas of human development : bolstering human capital, improving infrastructure and increasing social, economic and political rights. The target date to achieve UN’s 8 MDGs needs to be achieved by 2015 and we hope that Project 8 BILLION will make a positive contribution to ensure that these goals are met.

The best lesson that I have learned in my life is that a lack of action will cause a reaction with immediate consequences. If we don’t start doing something NOW we will lose the chance to create a sustainable environment for us and future generations to live in. Purpose before profit is possible and the decisions and influencing the choices of consumers will ensure that it works.

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