The Importance of Social Purpose

Today, good business isn’t just about making money. It’s about making a difference.

In the past, many companies and businesses included philanthropy as a side note, but more and more are beginning to place social purpose at the very core of who they are and what they do.

Companies like Toms, Patagonia and Cotopaxi were early adopters of this new, future-focused business model. Some might even have called them trend-setters back when it was unclear if this “good business does good” approach would stick. Thankfully it has – and given the turmoil of the political and environmental climate, is the new path forward. Brands like REI, LifeStraw, United by Blue and Biolight are just a few in a long list of manufacturers and retailers that are living and breathing social purpose.

Where do ski industry retailers and manufacturers fall in this new path? While several like Liberty, Jones, Niche, Arbor, Aspen, Capita and Vail Resorts are all heavily environmentally focused, that seems to be the line in the snow when it comes to social purpose. And for logical, if not good, reason. For an industry and products dependent on mother nature, a cold and snowy future is required for solvency.

While the positive environmental impacts of sustainability and conservation efforts in the industry are large, social responsibility for the outdoor industry needs to work beyond eco-minded business. It must if it wants to thrive. Why? Because environmentalism is a group effort, and the industry is in need of a much larger group of environmental advocates. It needs to broaden reach and focus to social and economic issues like accessibility and diversity – to grow to include what will be the majority populous by 2042. The larger the customer base and community of the snow-sport industry grows, the more advocates for green and eco-friendly practices there will be.

Leading with social purpose has a long list of positives. With this new model, brands are building communities of brand-loyal customers – people who want to buy products and associate their buying power with positive impact beyond consumerism. They are attracting employees, partners and investors who want to give back and as a result, are developing brand cultures of dedicated people, passionate about the business, its social purpose and success as a whole. The biggest positive of all: impact. Teams of people, businesses, manufacturers and retailers working together to bring about positive change actually results in industry-wide, if not society-wide change.

But there is a catch: branded social purpose has to be true and transparent. When campaigns and initiatives for change are lived, breathed and embodied fully by a company and it’s leaders, customers can tell. They verbally, digitally and financially rally behind the brands and retailers they believe in. But if it isn’t real, if social purpose isn’t authentic? Danger. Someone, somewhere will know. And that will be the end of many things, the biggest of which is customer trust and willingness to associate.

So how does a brand, manufacturer or retailer begin incorporate social purpose at a core level? Go back to the basics – specifically a business plan and strategy. Understand the values and issues that matter most to customers, employees and leadership alike. And companies that are walking the walk? Talk about it, share your values, build communities, make a difference.

-Marisa Jarae

SIA

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