How Mars is embedding purpose and avoiding “purpose-washing”

April 30, 2019

How Mars is embedding purpose and avoiding “purpose-washing”

Mars introduced its first Global Purpose Director, Michele Oliver, almost a year ago to the day. Under Oliver’s direction, the company has now rolled out a new purpose statement, defined by the tagline “The world we want tomorrow starts with how we do business today”.

Corporate attempts to demonstrate a purpose beyond profit are not new, but many might be labelled as “purpose-washing” – inauthentic claims to a company’s role in society. Companies using this marketing spin without substance will get caught out by an increasingly informed, engaged and discerning stakeholder base. To demonstrate true commitment, companies will need to add rigour through individual accountability and measurability of claims to purpose.

Mars has taken such concrete steps, taking the purpose agenda seriously. Oliver has said that the move to instil a socially-driven purpose “isn’t a marketing gimmick, this transcends every single part of the organisation, from our supply chain, all the way through to our recruitment and talent”. Indeed, sitting behind Mars’ purpose is a number of ambitious targets in its Sustainable in a Generation Plan.

Mars’ approach is encouraging to see, given the degree to which marketing has threatened to take over the purpose movement without genuine responsible underpinnings. Companies cannot use purpose as a quick way to boost sales. Instead, they must reflect on their role in society and decide how this can help create the “tomorrow we want”.