Competing on Social Purpose

Social purpose is not just about corporate reputation. A strong purpose can drive top-line growth and build an emotional connection to customers. Omar Rodriguez, author of the recent HBR article, “Competing on Social Purpose,” kicked off this session with fascinating insights, followed by compelling cases from the CCOs of Chobani, Lixil and Electrolux.

  • Michael Gonda, SVP, Corporate Affairs, Chobani
  • Jin Montesano, Executive Officer & Senior Managing Director, Public Affairs, IR, External Affairs, Corporate Responsibility, LIXIL
  • Martin von Arronet, SVP, Corporate Communications, Electrolux
  • Omar Rodriguez Vila, Marketing Professor, Emory University (Moderator)

Session Photos



Rodriguez Vila noted there has been a long- standing tension between CMOs and heads of sustainability within enterprises.

Marketers tend to characterize purpose as “a distraction, too difficult, and feels like a tax on my business.”

Sustainability officers believe marketers “just don’t get it,” despite the tremendous potential that purpose offers.

Rodriguez Vila said: “We need to talk about how the purpose idea connects to the core of the business … including social purpose as a way of disrupting industries.”



  • Vaseline intensive care: In the U.S., Unilever found that the brand’s core benefit was losing relevance over time. By connecting the product’s healing power with work that refugees agencies were doing around the world, the core benefit and value of the product was visible to consumers once again.
  • Brita water filters: Created a new market by creating water bottles that include filters, decreasing plastic waste.
  • Chipotle: Built its growth strategy on the model of sustainable agriculture.

Case Study: LIXIL


The Tokyo-based housing equipment company grew through multiple acquisitions, including companies like American Standard. These disparate brands were strong, but lacked a cohesive identity as a singular enterprise. “We began a sustainability strategy,“ Montesano said. “We began looking at what is our purpose for existing, how do we contribute to society?”

LIXIL‘s team looked to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals for guidance and chose to focus on global sanitation and hygiene. While 2.3 billion people lack access to a reliable toilet, no one had created an affordable option.

Creating a social business P&L called SATO (short for Safe Toilet), LIXIL offered a line of toilets ranging from $2 to $10. The company has launched a first-of-its-kind partnership with UNICEF called “Make a splash! Toilets for all.”


Case Study: Electrolux


As a house of brands, Electrolux has many products that help make people’s lives better through time-saving and food preservation. The company expanded its purpose objectives to focus on shaping living for the better –
“to reinvent the taste, care, and wellbeing experience for more enjoyable and sustainable living around the world.”

Electrolux’s vacuum cleaner business launched a “green range” using recycled plastics. But a shortage of recycled materials led to a program to retrieve objects polluting the ocean, called “Back from the Sea.” The company now makes more money from its green product range than any other.

Industrial laundries in hospitals were fitted to limit the transfer of bacteria between clean and dirty clothes, helping to reduce the threat
of infection.


Case Study: Chobani


Gonda explained that Chobani’s focus on purpose started in 2007, but that it was not “holistically implemented.” It was forced to refocus from 2013 when Chobani faced a range of business issues, including product problems and rumors of leadership changes.
As a result, Chobani shifted its purpose strategy to reflect the brand’s authentic commitment to social, environmental, and nutritional wellness.

Chobani’s focus on authentic purpose initiatives attracted positive attention from mainstream and social media.
The company launched a defamation suit against Alex Jones for false claims about the company’s workforce. The Wall Street Journal called it, “A victory over fake news.”



In their own words

“Clean water’s got Leonardo DiCaprio. Sanitation’s not that sexy. This work we’ve been doing is helping frame the problem, and also activate key players like UNICEF and WHO.”

– Jin Montesano

“Talking about it isn’t enough. You have to have systems and processes that create change.”

– Martin von Arronet

“Connecting it to our business, being authentic, and connecting with national conversations enabled us to compete way above our weight class.”

– Michael Gonda

More Events

Existential Disruption:
Our Communications Challenges, Our World
2019 Page International Exchange
June 19-21, 2019 • Amsterdam

2019 Page International Exchange

The inaugural Page International Exchange focused on existential disruption and attendees heard from European leaders, CEOs and CCOs on how industry leaders in the region are managing a time of turbulent change in both business and communication. We’ll also discuss how the Page model driving change within organizations, in terms of the role of corporate brand, culture change, digital disruption, and corporate purpose.

Moment of Truth:
Authenticity, Agility & Action
2019 Page Spring Seminar
April 4-5, New York

2019 Page Spring Seminar

This year’s Spring Seminar comes at a moment of truth for the Chief Communications Officer. Following in-depth conversations with more than 100 CCOs from Google and General Motors to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Siemens, Page is preparing its latest research report, which will be previewed at the Spring Seminar.

Purpose, Policy & Protest:
The Role of the Corporation on Social Issues
2018 Page Annual Conference
September 23-25, Washington D.C.

2018 Page Annual Conference

The pressure on companies, and specifically their CEOs and CCOs, to engage with their publics on a range of social issues – from climate change to privacy, from immigration to gun control, from gay rights to racial bias – is more intense than ever. How do you determine if, when and how to engage?

Are You Future-Proofed?
Disruption, Innovation And The CCO
2018 Page Spring Seminar
April 5-6, 2018 Conrad New York

2018 Page Spring Seminar

“When we started to think about the theme for this Spring Seminar, we heard from many of you that we really needed to shake things up and use this time to learn things that might be new to our thinking. Companies have been transformed or disrupted. Many have turned to design thinking to infuse their thinking about the future.

Latest from Page

Deepening Stakeholder Relationships Through CommTech with SocialChorus | Page Patrons

CommTech: Moving Communications to the Center of Company Strategy

Dick’s Sporting Goods Enters the Gun Debate: Revising the Playbook - Winning Case from Page and IPR Case Study Competition

Every year, Page teams up with the Institute for Public Relations to hold a student case study competition and the winners are chosen by a panel of some of the most prolific communicators in the world. This year’s winning case study examined the controversial decision by Dick’s Sporting Goods to discontinue the sale of guns in many of their stores, and the outcomes that followed.