CIPR: Business Can No Longer Prosper at the Expense of Society

Exploring social purpose at the CIPR National Conference


CIPR National Conference 2018 (Photo: Business Wire)

LONDON--()--Once upon a time business was exclusively focussed on making profit and public relations was about what you said and how you said it. But the rules have changed.

Businesses face far more scrutiny than ever before. Consumers want brands whose values align with their own and crucially, companies can no longer prosper at the expense of society. The sharp end of modern PR helps business understand these new parameters.

Last November, a sell-out crowd of 200 public relations and business professionals gathered at the British Library for the CIPR’s National Conference to understand social purpose and the role of business in creating a better world for society.

The conference kicked off with a talk from John O'Brien, European Managing Partner, ONE HUNDRED, who reflected on the importance of social purpose in business. "Ethical purpose is critical because it shapes how and why we do things," said O'Brien. He went on to claim that corporate social responsibility had become "defunct" as businesses traditionally regarded it as distinct from their core strategy.

It was a message echoed by M&C Saatchi PR's Global CEO, Molly Aldridge. "Purpose has to be authentically rooted into a brand’s DNA. It can’t be superficial or difficult to understand," said Aldridge. "It's then down to businesses to find and engage the right people to deliver on that purpose".

The CBI's Deputy Director General, Josh Hardie set out the business case for embracing social purpose. "90% of the public want businesses to speak out on social issues that matter to them. That makes it a business imperative,” said Hardie, who also touched on the importance of high quality communication. "A lack of trust in business often stems from bad communication. Mistrust fills the void when people don’t know what a business does. There’s a huge responsibility for PR pros in today’s world".

Captivating presentations from the likes of the BBC's Royal Correspondant, Jonny Dymond and Ofcom's Director of Market Intelligence, Ian Macrae, followed before a fitting finale featuring Iceland's Managing Director, Richard Walker.

He was quick to impress on the audience the ability of every individual to create a better world.

"We’re all focused on Brexit but we’re sleepwalking into an environmental crisis. From deforestation to plastics and palm oil," said Walker. "As businesses invested in those debates, we can find solutions and alternatives that make a difference to our world."

"If you do the right thing and listen to others’ views, people will support you," added Walker.

Iceland Food Group's 'purpose before profit' approach is resonating with the public. Walker claimed Iceland's banned Christmas advert, highlighting the environmental impact raising palm oil products, has been viewed more than 65m times, making it the most watched Christmas advert of all time.

The CIPR’s Vice President Sarah Hall Chart.PR, FCIPR, CIPR President closed the conference by reflecting on the evolving role of public relations.

“As PR professionals, we have a tremendous opportunity to shape the way our organisations operate in society. This conference showcased the value we can offer in helping businesses find their why and define their how, to deliver long-term benefits for all.”

The CIPR National Conference returns to the British Library on Wednesday 13 November 2019. Register your interest.


Koray Camgoz, Public Relations Manager


Koray Camgoz, Public Relations Manager