Brands can do more for society when they work together

Scientists pursuing a Covid vaccine demonstrated that a shared purpose can deliver powerful outcomes – something that brands can learn if they want to make a positive difference.

A few weeks ago, I started to do this thing every night before turning off the light. My husband and I share three things that have happened during the day that have brought us a little joy; it is our ‘reasons to be cheerful’ moment.

For me it is often something like “I heard an owl”, “I saw a fox strolling down the street”, or “that lasagne you made was delicious”. It doesn’t have to be big or deeply significant, just something that lifted the spirits. It is the act of sharing and acknowledging the moments of joy in these awful times that is important. Honestly, it has made a difference to my wellbeing and has helped quell some of my late-night anxiety – I highly recommend it

Because joy has been in pretty short supply this year. Fortunately we are beginning to see the first glimmers of hope for a better future. Thanks to extraordinary dedication by teams of scientists across the globe we have three, potentially more, effective vaccines for Covid-19. I don’t think we can underestimate the feat – there has never been a vaccine for a virus in the Covid family and yet, through amazing commitment, collaboration and co-operation, researchers across the world have brought us new hope.

Put social impact in your annual plan

Their work is testament to what can be achieved when there is a shared purpose. I know it has not been easy but it would seem that everyone involved – including university research teams, pharma giants, NGOs, national and international health organisations, regulators and funders – put aside professional rivalries and just did their jobs.

Shared purpose

It was striking that as news of each breakthrough came, it was welcomed by supposedly rival teams. There seemed to be genuine appreciation and acknowledgement that the progress for one team was progress for all.

This stands in stark contrast to the other shadow looming over our heads. Four years in, we still haven’t got a deal on this country’s relationship with the EU post-Brexit. I am tempted to say that’s because there was no shared view on what a good outcome looked like, just an over-enthusiastic desire to get Brexit done.

We tend to see other brands as the competition… But on some issues, if we worked together, we could create real change.

But let’s get back to the virus. I know we are not home free. Of course not. It will be some months yet before we will emerge from the darkness.

The rolling-out of vaccines to the entire UK population will take time, and remember we won’t be – we can’t be – safe until the whole world is vaccinated. While we wait, we will need to resist the temptation to abandon the restrictions which have protected us thus far.

No need to compete

We have already seen over 60,000 Covid-19 related deaths and have been warned that the ‘five days of Christmas’ relaxation will almost certainly trigger another wave of infections. We will need to be super-cautious to avoid further national lockdowns and still more deaths over the spring.

But we go into the holidays knowing that there is light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel at least. And maybe we should reflect on how working together can make a difference. In our world we tend to see other brands as the competition and, for the most part, they are. But on some issues, it occurs to me that if we worked together, we could create real change.

Purpose will be central to rebuilding brands, post-Covid

I am thinking particularly about standing up for the issues and values that bind us. I was so delighted when I saw the supermarkets come together with Channel 4 to stand against the hate that Sainsbury’s best gravy campaign attracted. Surely we can do this more often? Collaborate to eliminate hate in all its forms? Learn from each other to build stronger, more inclusive workplaces where everyone belongs; or build sustainable practices into our processes?

Just like the scientists who developed the vaccines which will save us, perhaps we can learn that there are some things we just don’t need to compete over.