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Can companies pursue a social purpose agenda while working with businesses responsible for fossil fuel production? Red or Dead founder Wayne Hemmingway tells The Drum executive editor Stephen Lepitak it’s possible.

Founder of Red or Dead and Hemmingway Design, Wayne Hemmingway believes in the importance of brand purpose when it comes to business success as well as improving the world. That must include the major oil and gas companies such as BP and Shell, he says.

Speaking ahead of the Good Business Festival, a global movement that aims to affect positive change through business, Hemmingway told The Drum why he’s involved in the event, which includes companies such as Coca-Cola, Mastercard, Nesta and Oxfam as well as the United Nations, Liverpool FC and Lush.

“Every business now has to be part of a purposeful journey for societal benefit. There’s three generations now; millennials, Gen Z, and Gen Alphas who have got a different opinion on what they want from life, not all of them but there’s definitely a societal shift… more from the fact that these are the first generations to be worse off than their parents,” he explained.

“It’s the first time that there’s been a world gathering of this where we’re involving everybody from the small business that just wants to find out more about why you need to be purposeful, how you avoid woke washing to the to the large corporations that might have been vilified in the past.

But the likes of BP we’re talking to and most people who bang on about purposeful business can balk when you say that and ask: “How can you involve BP and Shell and people like that? Well, the fact is that we are going to be reliant on those businesses to become more purposeful, if they’re not involved, if we are going to change the world for the better. So this is a broad church, it’s a very large event.”

Asked to advise how companies can choose a brand purpose, Hemmingway advises research and learning  about what ‘being purposeful’ means first and learning about gaining B Corp status.

“You can learn from others,” he continued. We’ve got people like Patagonia. We’ve got all sorts of brands who've gone the whole hog and brands who are starting and will tell the story of how difficult it is or how easy it is. So basically, like everything else, there's learning out there, the world is full of places to learn… I’d want everybody to copy a purposeful business.”

Watch the interview with The Drum’s executive editor Stephen Lepitak in the video above to hear more of Hemmingway’s views on how businesses can do better for the world. 

More details on the Good Business Festival can be found on the dedicated website, while Hemmingway will also feature as part of The Drum’s Agencies4Growth Festival in October, discussing the continued value of the agency sector and offering his experience of running a creative team virtually in recent months.