There’s a lot of it about.

In January, Edelman’s Trust Barometre said the UK was at an all time low in terms of public trust for charities, NGOs, business and media. The PR giant recommended companies demonstrate clear personal and societal benefits, and behave with integrity, in order to build trust.

In February, the PRCA ran a packed-out event, Should Brand PR Have A Higher Purpose?, where the likes of Coca-cola and McDonalds argued that social purpose was core to their business strategies. (There’s a good write-up on Gorkana by the panel chair, Ruth Allchurch.)

In June, I went to the launch of Reclaiming Agency – a report on the future of advertising. The report concluded that advertising creatives should start using their collective nous to address sustainability, inequality, poverty and other big social issues facing the world.

Not to be outdone, in September, marketing and media industry bible The Drum relaunched with a brand new strapline: How Marketing Can Change The World.

But is it really down to marketing to change the world? How about businesses themselves? Are they prioritising ethical and socially responsible practices not only in their comms plans, but in their very being? In their business goals and strategy?

Meaning Conference (above) is all about that. Devised by Nixon McInnes (a former digital marketing company that moved on to business consultancy), the conference is now in it’s fourth year and run by Louise Ash, a former NM employee who set up her own event management company when Nixon McInnes drank so much of its own Kool Aid (In the nicest possible way) that it dissolved itself into a loosely connected network of autonomous parts.

There were some great stories at Meaning 2015:

  • Jos de Blok told how he runs the Netherlands fastest growing care company with virtually no management – and the nurses he employs are so happy they don’t want to retire.
  • Miriam Turner‘s company, Interface, supports the circular economy by making carpet tiles out of disused nylon fishing nets from the Philippines.
  • Marcus Coates is an artist who attempts to solve management and government problems with thinking that’s truly “out of the box”. One of his projects involved setting up a business consultancy with people who were – mostly – formerly homeless.

It was great to hear these and other stories from people who are actually doing something different in business. And not a marketing person in sight (well, not on stage, anyway).

These are the people who are, in the infamous words of Mahatma Ghandi, truly being the change they wish to see in the world. And they’re inspiring others.

At this year’s Meaning, we saw that any type of company can have a strong social purpose. And it goes without saying, that social change is possibly the loudest conversation on social media today.

What are you doing to make a difference?

And how are you talking about it?

Photo: Clive Andrews