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Firm Grounding for the Long-Term

Blog: Social Innovation

— Jessica Jeng 

The grind of daily life sometimes sets us adrift from what really grounds us. It can happen to any person or any brand. For some, it’s joining the newest social platform, without really knowing how to use it (gasp!). For others, it’s signing onto a partnership that doesn’t really align with your organization’s goals. When this happens, it’s important to take a step back and re-evaluate what you, or your organization, really stands for.  

When I attended the Impact 2030 Summit in NYC, a key takeaway was that we must find our grounding, a foundation for what we do. Without this grounding to guide us in our beliefs, missions and goals, our actions do not resonate. This goes double for companies – a firm grounding in what your company stands for means more authenticity, transparency and engagement with your stakeholders, whether they are consumers, investors or employees.

Take a look at TOMS. They started out with a simple goal – for every pair of shoes purchased, a pair is donated to someone in need. They’ve since expanded their giving to encompass shoes, sight, water, safe birth and bullying prevention services. But, crucial questions arose – Why were they doing this? What was the foundation, the grounding, behind their giving? After some deep conversations, TOMS figured out that they weren’t about giving shoes or providing clean water – they were committed to one another and thus, they found their grounding – For One, Another.

Another example is Whole Foods, whose mission statement is Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet. The company’s eight core values, alongside quality standards and caring for communities, serve as the foundation for their holistic approach to food, people and the world. Their recent campaign to promote ugly produce shows that they understand that a sustainable planet comes from sustainable food practices – both of which are values that their clientele care about.

TOMS and Whole Foods have leveraged this grounding as the common thread that runs through all their campaigns and initiatives. For TOMS, areas such as sight, water, safe birth and bullying prevention services don’t seem to be in their wheelhouse (after all, what do they have to do with shoes?), but they do connect to caring for one another and that goes a long way for both their relationships with their consumers as well as their brand identity.

Whole Foods’ mission easily boils down to the Whole Person, which is what we all strive to be. Their approach reinforces that we make our own choices, and that when we align those with a value system like Whole Foods has, we can make a difference in the world (while also serving tasty products).

When we take the time to find our own grounding, we often end up much more connected to the people, and world, around us. The same can be said for companies – at the end of the day, Whole Foods and TOMS show us that when you have a strong grounding, you don’t get caught up in fads of the moment.

At WE, we always counsel our clients to make sure their actions remain true to their mission. Whether it is conducting a survey looking at student perspectives of STEM or making sure that consumers know about your environmentally-friendly approach to sourcing seafood, it’s imperative to make decisions that are authentic to your brand and reinforce the value you provide to your customers. This authenticity will help your consumers understand, accept and support you because your ethos, your grounding, ring true to their overall experience with you. 


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