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As we slowly recover from the stupor of the not completely unexpected news that Steve Jobs has stepped down as Apple’s CEO, here’s a post from recent months that’s worth a retake.

Context: At Business for Social Responsibility’s (BSR) annual conference last year, Edelman’s Managing Director for Corporate Citizenship Carol Cone released the 2010 Good Purpose Study with a dramatic declaration: “Cause marketing is dead.”

The main overarching finding of the study, as regular readers will recall, was this:

87 percent of consumers worldwide believe that business needs to equate at least equal weight on society’s interests as on business interests.

Accompanying Cone at the release were panelists from Levi Strauss, PepsiCo and a personal favorite: The Economist‘s Matthew Bishop, who amid the hype and hoopla of the report, quietly asked: “Are we really going to stop buying Apple because of its crappy environmental policies?”

An excerpt, originally published on Vault’s CSR blog: In Good Company:

The GoodPurpose study by Edelman

“Cause marketing is dead”

That controversial statement is how Cone opened the panel, adding, “That [cause marketing] world is way over. Purpose has replaced cause marketing and branding.” Companies aren’t building marketing plans around a cause anymore, she argued. Rather, “they are infusing their very strategy and business model with purposeful corporate citizenship.”

Defining real purpose

Picking up where Cone left off, the always-entertaining Matthew Bishop began with a prediction: “If we continue the current road toward demanding transparency and corporate social responsibility, within the next five to 10 years, we will begin to see corporate board meetings being live streamed to select people.”

Chuckling about the ambitiousness of his own statement, he went on to note, “Likewise, the real question is how much of this data [in the Good Purpose study] is picking up on aspirations rather than real choices [of consumers].”

PepsiCo: Performance with Purpose

Alleging that PepsiCo’s latest mantra of “Performance with Purpose” was indeed a verification of this shift from cause marketing to purposeful corporate citizenship at companies, Communications Director for PepsiCo Americas Beverages Melisa Tezanos gave high points to CEO Indra Nooyi for pushing for a company-wide cultural change that today drives all their business functions.

[READ: Pepsi Takes Performance with Purpose to Heart: An Interview with Chief Personnel Officer Cynthia Trudell]

“However, Nooyi is completely unapologetic about giving ‘performance’ as much importance as the ‘purpose’ part and she makes no bones about it,” said Tezanos, adding that this helps everyone across the company stay committed to a culture of profitability with purpose. Explaining the drivers behind PepsiCo’s highly successful Refresh project, she further stated, “For millennials, social responsibility is huge. We’ve seen through research again and again that their purchase intent goes up significantly when the brand is associated with a good cause.”

And finally, referring to the findings of the Edelman study—and Cone’s earlier comment, she said, “Marketing used to be blamed for being short-termism. Today, marketers are the biggest defenders of long-termism.”

But would you give up Cola…or Apple?

Bringing the conversation back to a level plain field, Bishop concluded with a sobering thought, “But what is real and what is fake with purpose? Will Pepsi ever move beyond the heart of its products, i.e., increasing obesity? Are we really going to stop buying Apple [products] because they have crappy environmental policies?”


Just some food for thought as we go on a whirlwind ride with the media in coming days on the history, the present, and the future of America’s favorite company, Apple. Don’t forget to add your perspective by leaving a comment or connecting with me @AmanSinghCSR.

And if you haven’t already, share your opinion on whether social media engagement make better brands or more effective leaders by taking this new BRANDfog survey on social media and leadership.

More on Edelman’s Good Purpose study: Encompassing 7,259 respondents in 13 countries, the study was conducted by consulting firm StrategyOne with the objective of analyzing whether—and how much—purpose plays into purchase decisions worldwide, and further, how these transform into consumer activism via social media.