Purposeful Brands 2021™

−Six global trends impacting purpose in 2021
−Top 30 most purposeful brands in three markets
−Three key takeaways from this year's results
−Lots of great purposeful examples

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The impact of purpose

We believe that companies are an absolute necessity for individuals and society to progress. Companies need to contribute more than they take, and to do that they need to be clear about their purpose.

At the same time, purpose has become a key driver of profitability and commercial growth, simply because purpose matters to people. If you manage to check all the boxes and contribute positively to both customers and a bigger perspective, your business will also thrive.

When we look at purposeful companies, we see that they have a common trait: an honest intention to lead positive change. But the nuances of purpose are in the eyes of people, and therefore it constantly evolves. That’s why we track which companies are the most purposeful in different markets and analyze why.

The time is now

We know from history that a crisis like the pandemic tends to amplify many, but not all, ongoing trends. It will also cause some trends to pivot. Change is fast and companies need to be on their toes to keep up.

But 2020 was not only the pandemic. It was also about accelerated climate change, social protest, political shifts and increased financial inequality. Changes in such large areas and for so many people, create bigger movements. That’s where purpose fits in.

Finally, the time for purpose is now, because it is no longer a brand new idea. There’s both testimony and data points to support purpose as a way for companies to progress and grow. It’s becoming easier to be a purpose-driven changemaker, and we’re quickly growing in number.

Measuring purpose

We’ve consistently measured purpose for five consecutive years. Our purpose index is based on five characteristics: Trustworthy, Visionary, Future-proof, Responsible and Innovative.

We survey which brands are best described as or associated with statements such as Acts ethically right, Has a clear role in the future, or Is reliable. A number of these associations form the base for each of the five purpose characteristics.

This year’s study included close to 7,000 respondents in three markets and covered 314 brands in total. Out of these, 180 brands were the 30 most successful corporations and 30 most used digital services in each market. We list these as top 30 for each market in two classes, Corporate and Digital Services.

About the methodology

What impacted purpose in 2020

  1. Our new healthy heroes
  2. Improved life quality at home
  3. Customer experience reimagined
  4. Trust in uncertain times
  5. Responsibility still matters
  6. A plan for the future

Our new healthy heroes

The pandemic drastically influenced our view of what really matters in 2020. It also raised awareness of many different aspects of health. As health has come into focus, companies contributing in these areas have become more relevant, important and meaningful to us.

  • Pharmaceutical companies are leaping up the lists
  • Digital health services are climbing the lists
  • Companies with a health profile have developed more positively than others

Improved life quality at home

In 2020, our worlds got a lot smaller and a lot bigger at once. Lots of things we love were suddenly out of reach, but soon more than we had ever had access to was became available online. Our homes became the center from where we and our families did everything. We found that companies which made this possible, easy and even enjoyable, were highly purposeful.

  • Ecommerce platforms and delivery services are placing in the top of the lists
  • Companies related to home utilities and improved life in the home did well this year
  • Online entertainment and gaming services are climbing the lists

Customer experience reimagined

It’s estimated that we saw 10+ years’ digital progress in 2020. This not only meant new technology, but we developed new behaviors and expectations. Companies seen as purposeful provide innovation to match our new habits, and are not only on par with the immediate competition, but with all customer experiences.

  • Pure online players are outperforming their offline counterparts in several categories
  • Big multi-functional ecommerce platforms are charging ahead at the top of the lists
  • Companies previously considered innovative are paling in comparison with leading edge ecommerce

Trust in uncertain times

Uncertainty raises the importance of trust. In 2020, Trust was super important when we chose products and services. At the core of Trust are shared values, and companies that acted in line with our values and proved that we could trust them, were seen as purposeful. Those who didn’t, less so. And we didn’t hesitate to reevaluate old loyalties, which affected some companies’ purpose indexes negatively.

  • Trust remains the most important characteristic of the purpose index
  • Trust is often the characteristic pushing changes in purpose index, both up and down
  • Well-established, trusted brands did well this year

Responsibility still matters

There are no signs that the pandemic made us want less social and environmental responsibility from companies, rather the opposite. Challenging times always make us more critical, but it also makes us open to reevaluate companies that, despite a tough situation, step up and take initiatives for a greater good.

  • Companies climbing the lists have noticeable increases in the Responsibility characteristic
  • Many of the top listing companies announced large-scale responsibility initiatives during 2020
  • Companies taking initiative within clean energy stand out among those climbing the lists

A plan for the future

With fast and sudden change comes a feeling that we need to be ready for the future. 2020 increased the importance for purposeful companies to be future-proof and ready to lead the way. Purposeful companies and their employees are confident about their part in shaping how we will live our lives in the future.

  • Future-proofing is the characteristic pushing the biggest climbers up the lists
  • After Trust, Future-proofing is the second most important characteristic of the purpose index
  • Companies reinventing how we shop, pay and interact are at the top of the lists

The full report contains

  • Purposeful Brands™ Top 30 for Sweden, US and China
  • Three key takeaways from this year’s results
  • The above presented trends for 2021

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