‘Purpose’ is not the solution to everything, but it is the direction of travel. As Larry Fink has commented, it provides a focal point through which businesses can deliver.
“It has never been more essential for a company to have a consistent voice, a clear and actionable purpose, a coherent strategy, and a long-term view. Your company’s purpose is its north star in this tumultuous environment.”
Larry Fink, CEO BlackRock
As reporting standards and frameworks sharpen to encourage responsible business practices, how businesses tell and evidence their strategies and progress becomes more challenging.
We have witnessed the emergence of ambiguous terminology, such as appending the word Purpose with foundational elements, e.g., “purpose-led strategy”, “purpose-driven business model”, and “purpose-driven culture”. This does well to signpost purpose but does little to build understanding and clarity. Not only does this do little to appease the risk of purpose-washing, but it can quickly create a subsequent issue of purpose fatigue.
So, we explored how annual reports, and specifically digital annual reports, could be better crafted to tell a richer, more authentic and credible narrative around purpose and the opportunity it creates for business. Although this is a constantly evolving space, we identified three focus areas that help tangibly link strategy, activity and purpose within annual reports. We discuss each area in the context of our work with Aliaxis.
Show how purpose delivers business growth and impacts society and the planet.
Aliaxis are a global pipes provider. Their product supplies water and renewable energies to edifices, agriculture, and infrastructure.We evolved their manufacturing heritage narrative to show how their purpose mobilised them to find solutions for the world’s biggest water-based challenges.
The report we created tackles each challenge head-on with a dedicated film delivered by a member of the Aliaxis leadership team. Each film explains the approach, activities and progress made. A creative ‘frame-in-frame’ device further reinforced the connection idea by pairing the external world with Aliaxis.
Each film is backed up by case studies clearly linking purpose to action to impact. The digital experience we created for Aliaxis made their purpose more tangible, immersive and engaging.
Show how the business is moving in step with its purpose.
The extent to which colleagues across organisations are empowered and celebrated for their contributions is a key indicator of a truly embedded purpose. Within the Aliaxis Annual Report, we used video testimonials to demonstrate how a purpose-led culture is embedded in day-to-day operations.
Aliaxis also increased advocacy of its work and purpose through live footage of stakeholder opinion, expert external perspectives and testimonials.
Evidence purpose-led innovation and systems change and the value it creates.
Business innovations are often cross-divisional and complex. The linear formats of printed reports can sometimes struggle to knit everything together, making the value that the innovations create harder to grasp.
For Aliaxis, we utilised menu structures and cross-linking to ensure this aspect of their story is clear. Future-focused innovation was further illustrated through a series of videos depicting their potential to create positive change.
This also allowed us to evidence ‘purpose in action’. Moving from ‘storytelling’ to ‘story-showing’ deepens understanding and authenticity, which in turn helps companies better manage perceptions, trust and reputation.
At Gather, we believe the opportunities for digital reporting are vast, rich, and constantly evolving and that communicators are yet to realise their full value and potential. We are excited about where the next projects may take us.