Conscious Connection recently caught up with Innate Motion co-founder and CEO Christophe Fauconnier to discuss how brands are embracing vulnerability to build purpose, trust, and cooperation with their stakeholders.
Innate Motion is a global consulting group dedicated to rehumanizing business. With empathy at the core of their ethos, Innate Motion believes the best way to grow a sustainable business is to embed people and earth-centric value at the heart of growth. The Certified B-Corp works with dozens of businesses to create services and value-based experiences with empathy for all stakeholders in mind.
Fauconnier brings human sense to a business world that applies too much business sense to humans. His passion for disrupting preconceived notions and connecting the dots between silo groups is helping to revolutionize how businesses embed social and environmental sustainability. He’s assisted some of the biggest names in commerce as well as startup NGOs and starry-eyed entrepreneurs develop branding that puts people and planet first.
CC: What are you up to at Innate Motion?
CF: “When we started out, we tried to make companies more people-centric, but today, that’s not enough: We have to make companies people and planet-centric … that’s what we’re fundamentally about. These companies want to be relevant and connect in a proper way, not just in sympathies, but really getting into the perspective of their diverse stakeholders. Today, community and the environment are important partners that they have to consider … the whole shift to interdependency between stakeholders has substantially become more current in how companies look at who they want to be and what they want to be part of. It’s not just humanizing the business, but humanizing the entire stakeholder ecosystem.”
CC: What does humanizing the entire stakeholder ecosystem look like?
CF: “If you don’t look at everything you do as a company through the consumers’ lens – the way they feel it, not just think about it – you are missing the opportunity to connect. If you look at your shareholders – who are also trying to build a healthy return towards the future – serving them only with facts and not understanding their emotion and view on things is wrong … How does everyone in your supply chain make a living? If you don’t consider how these people in your supply chain are earning a livelihood and also needing to improve their lives, then you are putting your company at risk.”
COVID-19 has propelled interdependence to new levels, Fauconnier said. In the span of a month, he’s seen corporate empathy jump in the wake of the coronavirus.
A similar dynamic has broadened support of the Black Lives Matter movement across the world. The public is more unified than ever in demanding racial justice and institutional reform, garnering rapid support across ideological spectrums and geopolitical boundaries. Fauconnier attributes this solidarity to a heightened sense of vulnerability leading the comfortably unengaged to finally admit enough is enough.
“When you’re all exposed to vulnerability, your willingness to empathize, to trust, and to collaborate, increases dramatically,” Fauconnier said. “Most people think of it the other way around … But it’s actually when we are all vulnerable that we can learn to connect and empathize with others without judgment and more of a desire to help.”
CC: Would you say the coronavirus kicked off a lot of this? Is this a pivotal moment for brands and businesses moving towards a more empathetic worldview?
CF: “On the short-term, absolutely … Companies across the world have stepped up in their desire to help and I think moving forward, their employees and their customers will set new expectations. And once people’s expectations have shifted, they’re not going to fall back. We might want to go back to normality, but our perspectives have changed … COVID has also shifted our perspective, and so a new set of expectations will be the new normality.”
CC: How can people and companies maintain empathy and imagination as they become more successful?
CF: “We help companies remain emphatic by connecting to all their stakeholders as people … We need nudges to help people take on a frame of reference that’s human, that’s more inclusive, that’s broader … We’re trying to create an experience where people can declare individually and collectively their love for the planet by experiencing the overview effect and declaring that love. The declaration is also a form of commitment … it states the planet does not need to be saved, it needs to be loved. They set open the perspective of why sustainability and acting on climate change and not destroying the planet is important because it’s our home. That’s just another way of creating experience of love and appreciation and commitment. It’s not the full answer … but it’s a good start.”
CC: Why do you feel that for-profit brands need to stand for something?
CF: “The role of a brand originally was to replace the shopkeeper at a distance. As companies became bigger and bigger, that relationship capacity needed to be put in place. Yes, it’s a selling device, but fundamentally it’s about fitting into people’s lives and standing for something that matters to them … So fit into their lives in a meaningful way with both a product to buy and a brand idea to buy into. The ‘why’ is for people because it adds value to their lives. For business, because it actually adds a better return … The companies that are the most transparent are becoming more and more accountable on how they deal with all stakeholders.”
CC: Do brands with a purpose end up getting more in terms of their return?
CF: “All the brands that are the farthest in their commitments and delivery of their sustainable living mission are the ones that are growing the fastest and have the best returns. We worked with Unilever on their sustainability branch. After ten years of commitment to that, there is no doubt in the case of Unilever that the best performing brands in business are those that are committed to the environmental and social mission … the 28 sustainable living brands of Unilever are totally outperforming all the other brands, and Unilever as a business has obviously done well in the last ten years … The bar has been raised.”
CC: What are the implications for marketers building brand purpose?
CF: “Marketers have to become even more capable to work with diverse stakeholders. They have to get off their ivory tower perspectives, and become part of things that are far bigger than them. For a brand like Nike that has done a brilliant job not only staging Michael Jordans of this world, now they are actually staging all radical equality movements. It’s not about euros, it’s about being committed to an equal playing field. They’ve gone a long way to committing to things that previously they didn’t have to consider … Like Patagonia, which is very vocal about their mission to protect nature. People are becoming more daring to commit to bigger goals, to bigger issues, because they also see that it actually makes good business sense and it definitely creates a type of affection and commitment which allows everyone to participate in it.
Purpose is a word that can easily become empty. If purpose doesn’t have a mobilizing change idea at heart, if people don’t start moving for it, then there’s a danger that it fades away. Some have gone a lot further and they’re confident that they can make a bigger impact, so they’re taking on a bigger challenge beyond the bottom line.”
CC: Are there any pitfalls for brands to watch out for as they adopt purpose-driven marketing?
CF: “A little film by Brené Brown makes the distinction between empathy and sympathy. I think a lot of purpose brands have sympathy but they still lack empathy. Empathy is a connection, perception, perspective, thinking of others, feeling them and not just understanding them, and communicating about it. I would advise everyone, if you’re not ready to become vulnerable yourself by taking on a purpose, then your purpose will never matter … Too much purpose is about sympathy, and too little purpose is about empathy.”
CC: What is your top advice for entrepreneurs and marketers who want to become more empathetic, and how can they inject more imagination into what they do to achieve a more humanized, purposeful business?
CF: “We always have to remember that we are people first. The people we want to create relevance for, they are, too. So when you create a fantastic business model or a new idea, don’t forget that it’s got to have not only product things or expert things, it also needs human things. It’s the easiest thing to do, and yet it seems to be the hardest thing to do when you are so obsessed and so busy with your idea or business model. The world doesn’t need more innovation, it needs more empathy.”
Interview Conducted by Anthony Chiaravallo | Edited by Christian Yonkers