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How to Square Sustainability and Profit

Article-How to Square Sustainability and Profit

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Finding a purpose for your brand or business can create a deeper engagement with your customers.

As humans, we all know we have to breathe in order to live but none of us live to breathe. Likewise, businesses have to make profits to survive but increasingly we’re recognising profits shouldn’t be their sole purpose. 

Finding a purpose for your brand or business is now a hot topic. Whether it’s a social or environmental purpose, if you get it right, you can create a deeper engagement with your customers and help your differentiation. 

But just because it’s on trend doesn’t mean it’s good for your bottom line, right? Well, there’s now building evidence to suggest sustainability does square with profitability. Two examples spring to mind: Millward Brown’s Insights 2020 research showed having a clear brand purpose was the number one most common feature in all over-performing growth businesses[i] and Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, who reports that not only are their Sustainable Living Brands growing 50 percent faster than the rest of Unilever but he sees the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as creating a new type of growth[ii].

With 76 percent of millennials considering a company’s social and environmental commitments before deciding where to work[iii] and 72 percent of global millennials saying they would pay more for sustainable goods[iv], we now need to accept the adage that we no longer need a business case for purpose... we need a purpose case for business!

How can you find your brand’s sustainable purpose? It’s a careful balancing act—rather like defining a brand positioning. The 1HQ model is all about teasing out the right answer to reach the sweet spot.  It’s about knowing your brand, and marrying it to something both your business and your consumers care about.  Then, once we’ve found your sustainable purpose, we need to create tangible actions that help the world. The more measurable the better.


In our purpose toolbox are the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals and we also have sustainability experts on hand who can check your brand for its halos and shadows. However, by far the most critical factor is you and your conviction in the result. 

1HQ supports the Sustainable Development Goals

Like so many bits of good marketing, if there is conviction at the heart of the brand together with its marketers and CEOs, the rest is simple.



[i] Millward Brown 2020 Insights 83 percent of revenue growth over-performers link everything the company does to its brand purpose, as opposed to only 31 percent among revenue growth under-performers

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