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How Retail Survives 2020: Purpose As The Next Major Disruption - Part One

Updated: Aug 28, 2020



One year ago – when conferences were commonplace and speeches were delivered face-to-face the opening address at a leading Australian e-commerce conference saw retail leaders predicting the next major disruptions to the industry. 


None of them predicted a global pandemic but one well-respected industry practitioner made a particularly salient forecast. 


Julie Mathers, CEO of ethical online retailer Flora and Fauna, predicted that a focus on ‘purpose’ would be the next major industry disruption. 


Despite the volatility of the past year, this prognosis is proving to have staying power.


Grounding businesses in their purpose is proving essential to coping with the immediate impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and other unprecedented changes to the physical, economic and social environments that retail operates within and impacts. 


Mathers’ 2019 prediction rings true in 2020 as businesses’ bottom lines are tied ever-closer to their purpose. In response to the coronavirus pandemic and global protests, Heath Shackleford, founder of socially responsible consultancy good.must.grow, wrote for Fast Company last month that “companies that have purpose built into their bottom line are the most likely to remain standing”.


Purpose is critical now and will be foundational for the viability of organisations in the medium to long term. The demonstrated mission of businesses and the values of their employees and customers will be the cornerstone of post-pandemic survival and beyond.


Fundamental changes around the world have produced shifts in consumer behaviour and expectations, and businesses cannot afford to be out of step with these changes. 


This is part one of a five-part series on the importance of purpose in a post-COVID environment. In part two I will cover how to define purpose, part three will be covering environmental sustainability, part four aligning employees with your business’ purpose, and part five the impact of purpose on profitability.



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