WARC Asia Editor Gabey Goh introduces Purpose Incorporated, a special three-part series on how APAC brands can do good and do better, with Chapter 1 examining the mindsets and management of brands committed to effecting meaningful business change.

Purpose Incorporated: A primer for brands in APAC

This article is part of a special series on how brands in APAC can go beyond profit to do good and do better for themselves and others. Read more.

Non-WARC subscribers can read this series in its entirety by accessing the articles via the landing page.

A few assumptions were made while creating and launching the Purpose Incorporated series – a special three-part effort to offer brands in the Asia Pacific region guidance and inspiration on how they can “do good and do better” – in partnership with global consultancy Uncommon Kind.

Assumption 1: The argument over “why” is over

There have been countless presentations, research reports and discussions over the years about why it makes good business sense to have a diverse workforce (and leadership), inclusive corporate cultures and equitable representation.

There have also been the same about why it makes good business sense to have sustainable business practices – for brands to do their part for the environment and do more to help communities and society at large on issues such as plastic pollution, education, clean water and sanitation, and domestic violence.

It doesn’t need repeating.

Instead, we assume that the convincing is done – the heart is there, it’s just the mind that needs a bit of a boost.

And in a bid to help move the conversation forward, we focus the series on the question of “how?”. How can brands implement meaningful and long-term policies and initiatives that not only “do good” but will not compromise the bottom line? How can marketers create work that promotes not just brand but also sparks needed conversations and action?

The motivation behind this series is to curate and offer information and guidance that speak as directly and relevantly as possible to the contexts at play in the region.

Assumption 2: DEI, ESG, CSR all fall under Purpose

Issues such as sustainability tend to fall under the Environmental Social Governance (ESG) category, with social impact under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) under a separate category of its own.

But for the purposes of this series, they are all considered to be under the same category that sits under “purpose”. It encompasses all the work that brands do – to do good and do better – for consumers, communities, employees and the wider world within which they operate.

It is necessary to address all these initiatives collectively in a region such as APAC, where many brands make no real delineation internally between sponsoring access to clean water in rural villages and launching intern programmes for young people from marginalised or disadvantaged communities.

As argued by public interest foundation and management consultancy Economics of Mutuality, CSR and ESG are peripheral approaches driven by compliance. Brands should look to the primacy of purpose in driving strategy and business decisions, as they drive holistic value creation across multiple forms of capital – social, human, natural and shared financial.

Assumption 3: APAC is home to both ends of the progress spectrum

Given the diverse range of economies and cultures within the collective region known as APAC, it comes as no surprise that there are cases of sophisticated and nuanced work that have positively impacted many, alongside efforts that only serve as a cursory or one-off demonstration. And places where nothing has been attempted.

This series strives to highlight the great work already being done by brands in the region, to serve as best practice and inspiration for others seeking to accomplish the same. It is not always a bad thing to have more in the middle in the ongoing mission to do good and do better.

What’s in Chapter 1?

Chapter 1 focuses on mindsets and management, as an opening for brands committed to effecting meaningful business change, and includes contributions from:

Uncommon Kind

We also invite you to begin your exploration of the first instalment by looking through the comparative review, to get a snapshot of the breadth of initiatives in the APAC region and the businesses – local and global – already constructing ecosystems, building circular economies and serving their communities.

The Purpose Incorporated series was created in partnership with Uncommon Kind, a global leadership consultancy that helps executive leaders who insist on a legacy defined by meaningful outcomes for business, people and planet.