Thought Leadership

The Future of Social Activism

Key take-outs from MSL's morning event where speakers from Innocent, Taylors of Harrogate, and Oracle discussed why everyone should be talking about purpose-led comms.

Kara Melchers

Managing Editor, BITE


Social activism was a hot topic at the World Economic Forum this year and our host for the morning, Steve Barrett, Editor of PR Week, was straight off the plane from Davos. Long gone is the idea that organisations must choose between sustainability and profitability, with mounting evidence to show that ethical companies are the ones growing the fastest.

With that in mind Barret invited Kathleen Enright from Salterbaxter and James Warren from MSL to take the stage. Their survey of 1001 people found that UK consumers want to make a personal positive impact, but that it’s the responsibility of companies to give us the right choices. They warned the room against ‘purpose-washing’ citing Audi’s 2017 Super Bowl ad ‘Daughter’ where a young girl is empowered by her father. Yet upon very little digging it was soon discovered that Audi’s track record with female equality was one of the worst. On the other hand CVS’s bold decision to stop working with a highly profitable tobacco company only helped propel the brand to new audiences. The moral of the story: purpose is what you do, not what you say.

Next on stage was Katie Leggett from Innocent Drinks who talked us through how the start-up smoothie brand with a big personality retained its core values as it grew. At Innocent everyone is assigned a sustainability role, as a Protector, Ambassador, Activator or Agitator. Each individual is empowered as a ‘hero for change.’

To conclude the day our speakers were joined on a panel by Chris Talago from Oracle and Sam Ward from Taylors of Harrogate. The discussion suggested that as marketers we should be grouping people by values, not by age and demographic. And this focus on an individual’s values should be a key proponent to hiring the best talent. When asked by a member of the audience if a brand’s purpose could ever be too ambitious, the reply was that size is never a problem, just watch out for it being too generic.


Steve Barrett, Global Editor in Chief, PR Week

Kathleen Enright, Deputy Managing Director, Salterbaxter

James Warren, Strategic Development Director, MSL

Katie Leggett, Sustainability Manager, Innocent Drinks

Chris Talago, VP PR & Communications EMEA & JAPAC, Oracle

Sam Ward, Brand Communications Lead, Taylors of Harrogate

Related Tags

Activism FMCG Purpose