Retailing with purpose: How the pursuit of social responsibility can inspire and sustain retail growth and innovation

Gwen Morrison, co-CEO, The Store, WPP's Global Retail Practice and Anneliza Humlen, President and Founder, SocialVoice

Abstract: This article builds upon best-practice retailing examples spanning developed markets such as the UK and USA, as well as developing markets such as Brazil, Peru,Turkey, South Africa and China. The authors share their collective experience drawing from their current work and global studies.The article showcases success stories of retail leadership guided by a conscientious commitment to purpose over profit. The authors present an inspiring range of examples and describe the different ways that ‘retailing with purpose’ can manifest itself and make a meaningful social difference. From retailers, retail developers, and retailing as a practice, the article illustrates how concepts such as ‘place-making’, community and employee culture building and sustainable business practices are essential for the value of retail to evolve beyond price or promotion. Many of the examples in this article have not only survived the recession, but actually thrived while competitors have competed on price, promotions and cutbacks. Moreover, they sustained growth, made innovative offerings, and grew customer base and loyalty.They are proof that a business strategy driven by purpose over profit can ultimately be the most effective and enduring form of innovation and success at retail.


Keywords: social responsibility, CSR, sustainability, retail with purpose, place-making, retail, social purpose, community, leadership, innovation, civic, marketing


Gwen Morrison is co-CEO, The Store, WPP’s Global Retail Practice. Her career has been devoted to brands in the retail space. At The Store, Gwen is responsible for extending WPP’s leadership in retail innovation and supporting global resources for WPP group companies across the Americas and Australasia. Gwen is charged with identifying issues and trends most important to retailers and FMCG brands around the world. She promotes best practices throughout the retail marketing community and has contributed to Harvard Business Review and Brand Week.


Anneliza Humlen is President and Founder of SocialVoice LLC. She is a brand strategist, development leader, culture-change catalyst, speaker and writer, with over 15 years’ experience creating meaningful brand connections to people, shared purpose and social interests that matter. Anneliza created the SocialVoice (a registered trademark of SocialVoice LLC) programme in 2009, which builds brands through social engagement, corporate culture and mentored development. She is a member of the World Brand Congress Advisory Council and is endorsed by leading industry forums such as the Toronto Sustainability Speakers Series and Sustainable Brands for excellence in corporate social responsibility and social communications.


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