This blog was written by Laura Kekuti, Policy Officer at UnLtd, the foundation for social entrepreneurs

We’re all becoming increasingly savvy - I’d even say sceptical - about businesses who claim to be purpose-led. In new research conducted by Message House, we’ve found that as many as 40 per cent of consumers believe brands just use purpose for marketing.  Yet 73 per cent of consumers are more likely to buy from brands that apply it as more than just a statement on their website. 

It’s crystal clear that purpose is about so much more than marketing. It needs to be embedded in the very heart of a business. But how do we go about this, particularly when there are many other urgent business priorities that demand immediate attention?

We’ve compiled five top tips from some of the UK’s most purpose-driven businesses on how to make purpose work in practice. These are designed to help founders and social entrepreneurs experience first-hand the well-documented benefits of being truly purpose-led.

  1. Keep it simple and don’t own it
  • Sustainable luxury lifestyle brand Elvis & Kresse believes that “purpose will keep you going when it gets tough. Have a very clear, simple message​ and ensure that your story does not belong to you; it is your stakeho​lde​r​s’​​ story, your team's story, your customer​s’​​ story, your community's story.”
  1. Use it to secure funding
  • Active Minds, a company helping improve the lives of those with dementia, attributes its success to its strong purpose, which has not only given them a clear direction, but greater access to funding and support since its founding in 2009. Active Minds just closed its latest round of funding in December, raising £1.2m with European impact fund, SI2, as the lead investor (SI2 only invests in social businesses with high impact potential).
  1. Make it legally binding
  • New government-backed tool Purposely, launched by UnLtd in partnership with law firm BWB, helps organisations to embed purpose in their company Articles when registering with Companies House.
  • This time-saving and free solution legally commits businesses to delivering certain aspects of their purpose. According to Tracey Crouch MP, Minister for Sport and Civil Society: “Purposely is so important. It offers business owners a simple and authentic way to take the first step in putting purpose at the heart of their company.”
  1. Make it a talent magnet
  • Change Please, a coffee chain employing homeless people as baristas and paying the London Living Wage, builds purpose into its recruitment process. Using it as a hiring filter enables it to ensure all new starters are not only talented, but truly share the brand’s vision.
  1. Get your board on-board
  • Change Please founder Cemal Ezel believes that a purpose-led company must have a board that shares its vision. They can’t be only interested in profit. A board’s responsibility should be in holding the business accountable to its wider purpose and in finding the balance between impact and income.

Putting purpose into practice can take on many guises.  For some entrepreneurs it will mean putting a social or environmental purpose as the core driver of their business. For others, it means delivering social impact alongside commercial goals.  Whichever direction is chosen, it needs to be deeply embedded, so that businesses have a legal commitment to social purpose and can reap the benefits of it in the long-term.

Purposely is a free government-backed tool, launched by UnLtd, the foundation for social entrepreneurs, and law firm BWB, that helps founders embed purpose within their business. For more information on making purpose work for your business, visit: getpurpose.ly