Tamara Ingram, chief executive of advertising agency JWT, warned that trying to make a point about society won’t work for every business.

“Not all brands deserve a movement. It may not be worthy of changing society. Sometimes we get a bit fashionable about the role that a brand can play,” she said, speaking at an event held by consultancy Oystercatchers in London last week.

“If movement means engagement, involvement, excitement then I’m totally [in support of that]. If every brand has to be politically transformative for the world then I think that is a stage too far.”

Philanthropic founders

Societal improvement isn’t anything new for some brands. For Elizabeth Fagan, managing director of U.K. pharmacy chain Boots (bought by Walgreens in 2014), having a clear purpose makes it easier to do business. The pharmacy was founded by John Boot in 1849, and his son Jesse continued the company, championing people’s right to have a basic standard of healthcare.

“If you are a brand with purpose it makes it much easier to drive a framework for making decisions, whether that’s a finance decision, a commercial decision, whether that’s a people decision, whether that’s a colleague decision,” Fagan told the Oystercatchers audience.

“For a brand that’s been around that long, you want to hold on to the legacy, but you actually want to create a future that’s contemporary. In 1849 people were living until they were 40, in 2017 people are living until they were 90 or 100.”

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