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Concrete brand talk in an ephemeral world

Fueled by Optimism: Innovation of Purpose

“In order to cement your status in the cultural elite, you want to be already sick of everything no one else has even heard of.”
—David Brooks, NY Times Op Ed columnist

This has, in my ten years of experience, been the prevailing attitude and general temperment in business, amidst a set of people who are constantly standing on the forefront of culture and gleaning bits for their work. I might be bold enough to say that attitude will soon be falling out of fashion. In a post-Obama victory, in an empathy-filled set of hard luck headlines, it’s time for optimism and promise to make a comeback. What can we offer in hope? Are our uncertain times a clarion call for a newer, more hopeful way of thinking and presenting real problem-solving solutions?

Now, I’m not talking about an unrealistic cheeriness that merely sugar coats the struggles ahead, but a bright-eyed, soul-driven willingness to seek and find solutions to problems—both for our world, and for the business that drives it. In these times, this kind of buoyancy is a breath of fresh air, a much-needed emotive undertone communicated to a weary audience. Are these the kinds of concepts and solutions that will resonate with clients and their markets in the coming months and years? I’m convinced that working within this mental framework will change us for the better.

One great example is Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts. They’ve achieved success on the two fronts of corporate responsibility and corporate growth of a high-end luxury brand. In its latest CSR initiative, the Banyan Tree Al Wadi in the United Arab Emirates released a first set of animals, consisting of 18 Arabian gazelles, eight Reem gazelles and four Arabian oryx into the resort’s 60-hectare nature reserve. Other ongoing CSR projects include Seedlings, a group-wide initiative to support communities by building capacities of young people; Greening Communities, to tackle climate change; Resource Conservation, to reduce energy and water consumption by each resort; and a marine lab at the Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru in the Maldives to look into environmental conservation. And, the Banyan Tree group has been supporting Earth Day for five consecutive years.

Founder Ho Kwon Ping attributes the company’s success to excellence in brand building and says idealism and business are not incompatible. “To me, the proudest thing I’ve done (with) Banyan Tree has nothing to do with hotels; it’s the fact that we’ve been able to build, from a relatively small platform, a globally sustainable brand that would have come from Asia, but be able to compete globally.”

There doesn’t have to be a difference between a good businessperson and someone who wants to improve the world. We must act on what matters. Making a difference is what intrigues and moves us forward. There is this rising expectation that business must address our most pressing concerns. Businesses will succeed based on their innovation of purpose, not on selling more products or creating better models for how they handle their business.

Photograph of the small jetty of Banyan Tree, Vabbinfaru by Daniel Laskowski, used with permission.

Jun 4 2010

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4 Responses to “Fueled by Optimism: Innovation of Purpose”

  1. [...] design blog Zeroside asked me for a permission to use one of my Banyan Tree photos to illustrate an article on a relationship of business and ideas that can improve the world. Taking Banyan Tree as an [...]

  2. Aaron S. says:

    Great post Erin. The most successful companies are the ones that stay connected to and support the communities that support them. A big factor is social responsibility of investors. As investors care more, corporations will too. Even PETA members are investing in McDonald’s and Kraft as a way of facilitating change: And it’s working. Something tells me this will be much more effective than the negative “us against them” mentality. Influence through positive leadership just seems like common sense doesn’t it?

  3. suba suba says:

    Major thanks for the blog post.Much thanks again. Awesome.

  4. There is apparently a bundle to know about this. I suppose you made various good points in features also.

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