How Can We Save Purpose from Purpose-Wash?

Join us for a live written panel discussion exploring how can we save purpose from purpose-wash

Live Panel

Thursday 11 July 3pm-4pm BST (10am-11am EDT). ADD TO CALENDAR


There is much talk about purposeful business as a force for good, but it is for real or just rhetoric?

This discussion will explore thought-provoking topics linked to purpose and use examples from leading companies across industries. The common ground between those who believe in the impact of purposeful business and those who question it, is a desire for authentic action. Thus, the end goal is to focus the discussion beyond the rhetoric of purpose towards the actions needed to embedding it meaningfully across business.


Gib Bulloch, Intrapreneur in Residence, Business Fights Poverty

Aline Costa, Head of Brand and Innovation, Purpose House

Will Gardner, B Leader, B Corp UK

Justine Harris, Former Group Head of Sustainable Business, Vodafone

Ben Kellard, Director of Business Strategy, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

Valentino Magliaro, Civic Leader - Italy, Obama Foundation & TEDx

Tasneem Mayet, DIrector, UKIFC

Pilar Pedrinelli, Global Purpose and Vanilla for Change Lead, Unilever

Moderator: Vitto Cerulli, Challenge Director, Business Fights Poverty


  1. When can a business be considered purposeful?
  2. What turns “purpose” into “purpose-washing”?
  3. Can and should every business have a purpose?

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Hi, I am @Vitto from Business Fights Poverty and I will be asking our panelists some questions. We´ll start in 20 minutes!

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Can’t wait to join the conversation! :raised_hands:t2::zap::earth_africa: Thx @Vitto!

I am Valentino, founder of Humans to Humans an Italian Corporate Activism firm that is redesigning CSR programs of great corporate and organizations.
Nominated by Forbes Italia as 30 Under 30 on Social Entrepreneurs, in 2017 Barack and Michelle Obama selected me as one of the 300 Civic Leaders in the World to attend the first summit of the Obama Foundation. :raised_hands:t2::zap::earth_africa:


Ready to start here in Oxford! We are all in a room and looking forward to chatting with you.

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Hi I am Tasneem a sustainability and purpose advocate for the finance industry so looking forward to joining the conversation!:deciduous_tree:


Delighted to join you Vitto…I’m Gib, a recovering intrapreneur from corporate sector. Spent 20 years in Accenture, much of it trying to grow its “not-for-loss” social enterprise, Accenture Development Partnerships. I left in 2016 to write a book, The Intrapreneur: Confessions of a corporate insurgent and to speak and consult in how we might radically reimagine the role of business in society


Hi everyone! This is Pilar speaking.
My passion lies within sustainable business where, by joining forces, doing well can go hand in hand with doing good and decisions can really make a difference. I have the honour to bring these beliefs to life every day at work at Unilever, leading one of the main sustainable sourcing partnerships with Save The Children and Symrise to improve livelihoods of our farmer communities in Madagascar. We recently extended this partnership to ME-to-WE and we are live as a campaign, Vanilla for Change.

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Hi, I’m Will. I help organisations become boldly purpose-driven, from the inside out. I try to be a thorn in the side of purpose-wash! I work as an independent advisor and speaker. Looking forward to playing a part in this discussion.


Hi there, my name is Aline. I am a marketeer with 13 years’ work at Unilever. I worked extensively creating brand strategies, building communication campaigns, developing brand purposes, managing innovation projects, planning and implementing bespoke creative sessions. And over the last two years, recently I have been working as a marketing consultant helping brands and companies to be more purposeful.


I’ve joined Vitto and Purpose House recently as Innovator and brand strategist!

My first question for our panelists and everyone else online is: when can a business be considered purposeful?

In order to be real it has to be inside out, must be found in consultation with employees so its really true to the business, to internal culture, to the benefits delivered by the products and services. It must be the single most important criteria via which a company evaluates all actions.


Hard one. I think a business can be considered purposeful when its activities are aligned to the long term wellbeing of all. It’s clearly got to be more about the ‘do’ than the ’say’. It’s OK if the journey isn’t yet complete, but there has to be a clear direction of travel and substantial progress made.


A1: There’s a view that any business that makes widgets, pays its taxes and employs people in the process has a social purpose. I don’t buy that.
Any business that seeks to address a social or environmental need or challenge through a sustainable business model could be considered purposeful. I’m fine with this activity being profitable - but rather than profit maximising, a purpose driven business will ‘optimise’ profit in balance with its mission and the needs of wider stakeholders.
That would be my take…… would be interested to have this challenged by our friends online?


A1: I believe a business can be considered to be “purposeful” when it realizes it is set in a context that is finite and tries to proactively engage in seeking to address issues of societal concern.


Agree Will! And in the spirit of being truthful to it, being open about the challenges that your business have yet not cracked is important.


To play Devil’s advocate Will, I wonder if Mark Rylance the actor would take issue with that. BP has a clear long term commitment to sustainable energy and has made some progress I’d argue …but he chose to leave the Royal Shakespeare Company over their ongoing sponsorship from BP. Do you think they’re purpose driven?


Agree with you @WillG In the morning session today a key point was raised - profit is about the short term and purpose is about how a company thinks about the long term

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Thanks Pilar. I agree that being purposeful starts with the board and executive team making certain ‘acknowledgements’ - acknowledge that we’re on a finite planet and that has consequences for business; acknowledge that all human lives are precious, including people you don’t know but you might indirectly impact.


When it value is delivered external to the company by the people involved with, when they starts to spread out the positive effect that the job that they are doing work is increasing the culture of families and friends. Purpose, People and Planet: take the message of the company, train all people on this messages and let that this people can create a positive impact on the personal social sphere, even not the business sphere.