Perspective: What's Our Purpose?
A question that has been gnawing at the back of my mind for several years now is “What is PPAI’s purpose?” Sure, everyone knows our charge is to “grow and protect the industry,” and our mission is to be “the trusted leader in the promotional products industry delivering essential knowledge, resources and community to ensure the success of our members and the industry.” Indeed, these are lofty pursuits and ones that PPAI excels in achieving. But, with consumers and employees becoming ever more aware of the role of corporate social responsibility initiatives, does PPAI have a greater purpose? Does our industry?
In 2019, the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs from America’s leading companies, redefined the purpose of an organization. The focus moved from benefiting only its shareholders to improving the value provided to all its stakeholders, which are comprised of customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders. As a finance guy, although I applauded the concept, I initially figured there was no way to do this that makes sense and that companies could not afford to embrace such a radical idea. However, the appeal of a company’s purpose being more than its bottom line, along with the recognition that this Roundtable group was probably not made up of a bunch of idealists who believe in fairytales and unicorns (except the IPO kind), I decided to investigate the concept.
I discovered a McKinsey study published in 2020 titled “Five Ways That ESG Creates Value.” ESG is short for environmental, social and governance. How your company addresses these factors can play a role in your company’s value. The study outlines how a well-thought-out ESG policy can improve a company’s top-line growth, generate cost savings, reduce regulatory and legal interventions, create employee productivity uplift, and increase investment and asset optimization. While I do not have the space here to elaborate on how this happens, rest assured that the results were compelling. A Harvard Business Review article reinforced this by acknowledging that more and more money managers are looking to invest in companies that embrace corporate social responsibility. Finally, I learned from Morning Consult that “68 percent of adults say a company’s treatment of employees, customers and society more broadly plays an important role in their purchasing decisions.” Ignoring these factors could have a negative impact on a company’s value.
So, what does this mean for the promotional products industry, PPAI and you? I believe it is important for PPAI to educate its members on the value and importance of corporate social responsibility and take the steps to embrace it as well. As an industry, we need to stand up to social injustice, produce and sell products in an environmentally-conscious way, and adopt governance models that allow companies to identify, measure and report progress towards their goals. The good news is that many of our members have already taken up the flag of being responsible corporate citizens, and we can all learn from them. PromoCares, a group of industry members dedicated to corporate social responsibility, lists more than 70 suppliers that offer some type of give-back program or support for worthy causes. Its website, promocares.org, provides guidelines for suppliers and distributors who want to take the first steps toward corporate social responsibility.
Most importantly, it’s not marketing fluff. It’s about doing the right thing and being authentic about it. Our industry has the awesome power to spread the message of the good it brings to our communities and to influence how others can do the same. We can lead with our heart and embrace unavoidable social change. Will you help uplift our industry and embrace that change?
Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.