We were pumped to attend Purpose 2023, held recently at Carriageworks in Sydney - a two-day immersive conference for purpose-driven people, brands and organisations to gather, learn, share stories, and most of all, be inspired. It’s right in our wheelhouse and our first year in attendance did not disappoint.
Overall, the vibe felt productive: a move from activism to collaboration, with big corporations, consultants and not-for-profits finding how they can complement each other and push forward together. We think Gauri van Gulik, Co-founder and Chair of Multitudes Foundation and Former Europe Director - Amnesty International, put it best “the issues of today are too big for us to ostracise each other”.
If you missed Purpose, never fear, play catch-up with our top insights on the brands and organisations leading the pack by leading with purpose.
1. We Are Warriors: inspiring greatness with Blak excellence
Nooky, Indigenous Australian rapper and Triple J presenter and Ben Miles, VP and Executive Creative Director of global branding and digital agency R/GA, spoke about their Indigenous social enterprise and platform dedicated to celebrating Blak excellence and empowering Indigenous youth. Born from multiple painful personal incidents Nooky encountered as a young Aboriginal boy growing up in Nowra, he and Ben have created the incredibly powerful and edgy brand that is We Are Warriors.
2. MCi Carbon: leading global energy markets with radical new technology
We were blown away by the technology from MCi Carbon. Sophia Hamblin Wang spoke passionately about turning industrial carbon dioxide waste into building products. Instead of just storing captured CO2 (carbon sequestration), the technology developed by MCi Carbon locks away carbon in building materials like bricks, glass and plasterboard. It was so impressive that she won the COP26 Clean Energy Start-up Pitch Battle in 2021 beating 2700 global technologies!
Their contribution to the circular economy will be even more impactful when they open their first mineral carbonation demonstration plant (named Myrtle) at Orica’s Kooragang Island in 2024. And here’s a hot tip from Sophia for anyone wanting to change the world – taking time to understand the legislative framework is unbelievably important to getting things done. As a result, MCi Carbon has been funded by both sides of politics for 10 years. Their goal is to remove a billion tonnes of CO2 by 2040 safely and permanently, what a game changer.
3. Oz Harvest – fan moment meeting the goddess of purpose!
OzHarvest is a brand we’ve long admired and getting to meet founder Ronni Kahn was an absolute Purpose highlight! OzHarvest turns 20 next year and is a great example of how to build an impactful brand by leveraging a clear purpose and executing a bold brand identity consistently. Ronni started with a mic drop moment that she is stepping aside at OzHarvest. James Goth, currently COO at Seven Group Holdings takes the mantle as OzHarvest CEO in March 2024, “after 20 years it’s time for someone else to lead it now”.
She also shared her philosophy of never considering OzHarvest a not for profit, “does Microsoft consider itself not for loss?!”. She has run OzHarvest as a for-purpose company, it’s always been a business and she has always attracted corporate partners by telling the story of ‘the why’ and the difference it’s going to make for them. She was also incredibly candid sharing a story about saying no to a half a mil from a certain soft drink company that didn’t align with OzHarvest’s values. A great example of using your purpose and brand strategy to make important decisions and be a north star for everything you do. In Ronni’s wise words: “if you’re not leveraging your purpose you’re missing the biggest business opportunity”.
4. Conversational AI – from attention to intimacy
Lee Schofield, Co-founder of Future For Now and generative AI expert blew our minds with where this tech is going. The shift is happening from attention to intimacy. No longer is it just about eyeballs and interruption, smart organisations are using tech to build connections with their audience. She shared a new ‘conversational AI’ tool called Pi (short for personal intelligence) – it’s helpful and conversational, scarily so. Use it for brainstorming, coaching, banter. Kahn Academy is a great example of making learning fun by enabling in-depth conversations with historical figures. Lee also freaked us out with the idea of bots having their own opinions 😱. She shared Meta’s new digital characters, including Sam Kerr’s (approved) avatar ‘Good time Sal’. Nothing beats the real you Sam!
5. Electric cars, ethical media and greenwashing
At the panel on ‘Leveraging the media and publishing industries for decarbonisation’, it was truly fascinating to hear how little processes can create big bold changes. Great to see media, consultants and clients championing their unique role in reducing emissions. We heard from Sharnee Rawson, Head of Commercial Content, The Guardian Australia, on how they have banned fossil fuels and gaming advertising at a cost of 600k a year. Lots of discussion around greenwashing when it comes to carbon neutrality vs. net zero because “you cannot neutralise your way out of a climate crisis”.
Alexandra Heaven, Head of ESG at JCDecaux, shared the importance of transparency and avoiding over-claim in advertising. When following the golden outdoor rule of 7 words max they must also be true! Note to marketers, the ACCC’s 8 principles to avoid greenwashing are a very helpful tool here.
Fascinating to hear about Polestar, an EV company (owned by Volvo) which will launch the lowest carbon footprint car on the market early 2024. Head of Marketing, Jonathan Williams, is a real champion for transparency in reporting. Loved their Set in Stone activation COP26 in Glasgow when they engraved their climate action commitments in stone and urged the rest of the car industry to do the same (they didn’t). Polestar’s bold vision is to produce the first ever carbon neutral car by 2030. Lots of talk about the absurdity of petrol stations now hiring influencers to make pumping gas cool and Havas winning the Shell account when they have B Corp status.
We learnt a new term, Scope3 (not new to any sustainability expert). June Cheung’s work is fascinating, as the Head of JAPAC at Scope3, a company that reports emissions measurement, compensation and reduction by organisations in media and advertising. They predict the emissions of every single part of the advertising supply chain, from production shoots to illuminated billboards, through to energy used from online ads and data centres. Our industry’s footprint is 2% of global emissions, which she noted is equivalent to the aviation industry and encouraged marketers and agencies to make conscious choices to reduce the emissions of their work.
6. Inspiring brands living their purpose – Unyoked and Heaps Normal
Both Unyoked and Heaps Normal were headlining the conference as examples of how brands living their purpose can be very successful, disrupting the status quo of the business world. Chris Grant, Co-founder of Unyoked, presented us with some tough stats about why we need to recharge. Did you know that we humans check our phone every day, on average, every 7 minutes we’re awake? That’s 17 years in a lifetime. (*Immediately switches to airplane mode*). That kind of data underpins their offering of private cabins in the wild to unwind, reconnect, and unplug. Chris’ presentation was a stark reminder that with the infrastructure we’ve created to exist in, it’s more vital than ever to remember that human nature needs nature.
Andy Miller, CEO of Heaps Normal, talked about their play-led approach business. It means experimenting and trying new things, enjoying the process, giving back to the community with 2% of their revenue going to grassroots and social causes. It was great to see a local business doing good for so many, also having fun, using humour and leveraging the Aussie vernacular and preconceived stereotypes in their campaigns, all whilst making delicious non-alcoholic beers, helping to change drinking culture and stigmas in Australia. Legends!
7. Right Story, Wrong Story – a wild ride
Special mention goes to Dr Tyson Yunkaporta for his wild untamed energy, we loved it. And to Ben Hart, Founder and MD of the Fireside Agency, for going along for the ride. Tyson is a Senior Research Fellow at Deakin University and founder of the Indigenous Knowledge Systems Lab. He read passages from his new book Right Story, Wrong Story pondering on the art of the deal, the Indigenous stereotype and how all yarns need some messy play and laughter. Such a renegade and one in a million voice. We cannot wait to get the audio book.
8. Inside Out: How inner work connects to purpose
With diverse backgrounds in human rights and corporate environments, Geraldine Chin Moody and Gauri van Gulik delved into the role of meaningful self-work in fostering personal and systemic change.
The workshop explored the powerful connection between inner work, community engagement, organisational health and ultimately, impact and purpose in the world. We were provided with a framework to embark on our own self-support work. A great workshop to highlight how to create meaningful impact and purpose within our daily lives, both personally and professionally.
And perhaps the nicest thought to leave you with came from Jason Fox a ‘wizard philosopher’. His antidote to the big overwhelming challenges we’re facing today? Moving quietly and planting things. Amen.