New Consumer Values Drive Demand for Purpose-Led Innovation

The Coronavirus pandemic has totally eclipsed what was supposed to be the year of climate action but it has also brought an unprecedented wave of purpose-driven innovations, most of them initially designed as emergency measures to ensure business continuity and to help countries to deal with the initial shock.

The pandemic has shifted the idea of sustainability and accelerated the rise of brands with a strong sense of purpose that go beyond the traditional business “for-profit” approach. Forced to move from talk to action, many companies are putting society and planetary welfare, along with transparency and collaboration, at the heart of a global recovery which relies on local resilience.

Considerations to take when moving from sustainability to purpose.

With consumer expectations redefined as a result of lockdowns, coupled with the expected global economic recession in 2020 pushing some to seek affordability, companies are under huge pressure to adapt to the new normal where no doubt, one of the key drivers of success will be agile innovation with purpose at its core.

Companies investing in new initiatives to accelerate change

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is catalysing change on many fronts with companies planning to leverage investment in a wide range of sustainability initiatives to generate new ways of thinking and doing as key pillars to build resilience, with nearly half of respondents in Euromonitor’s COVID-19 survey planning to invest in clean technology, showing leadership on climate action.

Business investment plans for a purpose-led recovery

Results from Euromonitor International Voice of the Industry: COVID-19 survey

Source: Euromonitor International Voice of the Industry: COVID-19 survey (fielded in Jan-Feb, 2020) and Voice of the Industry: Sustainability survey (fielded in June 2020)

With 61.9% of companies expecting consumers to be more concerned about sustainability in the future than they were pre-COVID-19, according to the Voice of the Industry: Sustainability survey, 2020, businesses are finding creative ways to meet new social demands while being mindful of the planet, from new product offerings to new ways to deliver them to consumers.

Case study: contact-free green deliveries in China

Image source: Automotive IQ website

• Beijing-based car manufacturer Neolix has seen demand soar for its electric driverless cars during the lockdown, receiving interest from online giants such as Alibaba Group and JD.com as well as public authorities to help deliver grocery and medical supplies and to disinfect public streets.

• Using a combination of sensors and HD maps for navigation, these green cars can travel up to 100km on a single battery charge, offering a more efficient and low carbon alternative to fossil fuel vehicles.

• With transport accounting for 7.2 billion tonnes of CO2 globally in 2019, investing in greener technologies such as autonomous electric vehicles is key to decarbonise the automotive industry, support the clean energy transition and achievement of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Leadership reputation is made or lost during times of crises. Companies are expected to go the extra mile, making people their new priority while also protecting the planet and their bottom line.

While most professionals expect many new enforced consumer behaviours to eventually revert to pre-COVID-19 times. Such as the increased use of single-use plastic packaging or the decrease in CO2 emissions due to limited travel and economic activity.

Some new habits such as the move towards remote work and the increased attention on how companies treat employees will likely continue post-lockdown (Voice of the Industry: COVID-19 survey, 2020). This means that consumers will expect companies to maintain the pandemic purpose-driven approach in the long term, not only providing products and services but also looking after the society and the planet.

For more insights on COVID-19’s impact on the economy, transition in business models and future outlook in the sustainability space, access the full report: “From Sustainability to Purpose: New Values Driving Purpose-Led Innovation”.