Purpose or Purpose Washing?

by | Feb 28, 2022 | Purpose

Is a company driven by its social purpose or just using it as a clever marketing ploy?

How can we determine if its founders are genuine or falling into the category of purpose washing?

Their commitment is indicated through the willingness to look passed the typical sales = success model, by creating products and services that solve the problems of their stakeholders as well as the planet.

Whereas Baby Boomers and Gen Xers tend to prioritize pay, prestige or job security when choosing a position, by 2025, 70 percent of the workforce will be composed of millennials. 75% of millennials are willing to take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company. 27% are more likely to stay with a company they believe has a higher purpose than just profit.

It is clear that it is becoming more and more necessary for companies to market their social and environmental responsibility. However, some of them begin to use the words centred around the trend in order to appeal to the sensibility of their customers, but fall short of action.

How can we avoid the struggle to determine how truthful companies are being without requiring a thorough analysis?

You can most certainly improve your detection skills for when a company is being transparent about its purpose and not just talking the talk. Here are 4 simple tips to get you started.

Individual accountability

The first area to look at is the group of key decision makers within the company. We can make a determination of their commitment to purpose driven business by looking at how they uphold their values independently.

This can be judged through their individual engagements such as charitable contributions, pro bono work, if they are a board member for a good cause or connected to the values of their for-profit business


Headaches are par for the course when being inundated by all sorts of ambiguous wording centred around socially and environmentally responsible business practices. It makes it overwhelming at the best of times and more importantly hard to know what’s ACTUALLY being done.

An organization driven by its purpose knows exactly their internal intentions and the external implications that will come as a result. Looking from a distance, measurements and criteria can help us determine if the intentions are being fleshed out and how the implications are realizing the vision.

In the short-term, clear steps are being taken to commit to incremental action. KPI’s that measure the company’s progress in the social and environmental responsibility of their business holds the organization accountable not just by executives running the ship but through all stakeholders.

Organizational commitments

Purpose must first and foremost drive action within an organisation. It must be linked to tangible goals, commitments and have a shared understanding within the whole company about what is required to create that change.

Systematic changes see that when the company benefits, so too do their stakeholders. Many are willing to expand their awareness passed the product and service. They are committed to causes that are looking to effect social and environmental change i.e. 1% for the planet

They also keep a detailed history and inventory of their sourced their materials. Ensuring that it is a local or sustainable source that does not leave a progressively negative impact as part of their greater sustainability strategy.


Social and business media tools have become a great platform for executives to spread the word about what they stand for and what they stand against. Those that have a true passion for their principals.

Decision makers demonstrate how they can inspire change and progression as it pertains to social and environmental responsibility.  They are actively engaging with a community that has a shared passion and interest for social purpose. In fact, when they are engaged, you can be sure that they are more productive and satisfied with their work than those who are not.

A great way to know that a company is serious about purposeful business and not using it as a marketing ploy is by reading their opinions on areas that seriously impact stakeholders – the people, the community, & the planet.

The next time you go to a company website, using these simple tips can make sure you know how serious they are about being a purpose driven business, that every action and decision considers their social and environmental impact.

Find our page on LinkedIn here, reach out and give us your thoughts on the article.