Here’s to the Purpose Provocateurs!

Holly Branson doing a Q&A with Virgin Megastore Dubai
Kami White
Holly Branson
Holly Branson's writing
Published on 15 May 2024

Around a year or so ago, I was sitting with my small but mighty team in one of our regular half-day creative sessions when the conversation went completely off-track... it always happens!

Our planning sessions are never dull; they are full of laughter, passion, a fair share of irreverence, colourful language, challenge, trust, and support. I love them! During this particular brainstorm, Jackie, Charlotte and Ernestina got into a debate about what we should call ourselves. They were having a funny half hour, which also always happens!

Personally, I was happy with 'The Purpose & Vision Team', but they were thinking more along the lines of being Purpose Activists or Purpose Agitators. With a lot of laughter, the list went on and on... Then there was a light bulb moment when Jackie said: “I know, we can call ourselves Purpose Provocateurs!”

I felt my cheeks burn, as I asked: “Does that not mean we have to do presentations in our underwear?” To which they all fell about laughing: “No, Holly, I think you’ve got confused with Agent Provocateur!" With that cleared up: the name 'Purpose Provocateurs' stuck!

Purpose Provocateurs

So what does it mean to be a purpose provocateur? To me, the name evokes an image of someone who is unafraid to challenge the status quo, loves to provoke and stimulate discussions, encourages bold action and ensures a business’s purpose stays at the forefront of every decision it makes.

A purpose provocateur works hard to develop and nurture a culture based on trust, transparency, and mutual respect, as they believe that radical change for the good of society and the environment can only happen when everyone feels they have a role in driving forward the brand’s purpose and vision.

What I love about the term ‘Purpose Provocateurs’ is the image it brings up of individuals working together, using their creativity and passion for innovation. A collective of people pushing through radical approaches and advocating for ethical practices that will not only drive purpose-led growth to the bottom-line, but also challenge our businesses to make decisions and investments that have a positive social and environmental impact. This is both in the communities they serve, and wider society. Jay Abraham put it perfectly when he said:

A strong sense of purpose fosters innovation and creativity within a business, as employees are inspired to find new and better ways of achieving the company's mission.

The true value of a company full of Purpose Provocateurs is that they challenge your organisation to think beyond profit-making and to realise that ‘Changing Business for Good’ is the best way and the only way of doing business. That together, as businesses, we can (and must) have a huge positive impact on the world and our beautiful planet. For a business to thrive, its leaders and employees must wholeheartedly believe that purpose and profit are not mutually exclusive but go hand in hand. This belief will ensure that the company remains successful in the decades to come. As Arianna Huffington put it:

When purpose becomes the driving force behind every decision and action, it transforms a business from simply surviving to truly thriving.

To kick things off, here’s the brilliant Henry Cawson who is Virgin Media O2’s Senior Environment and Climate Manager. Henry is deeply passionate about sustainability, and has been instrumental in helping Virgin Media O2 progress towards its ambitious environmental objective of reaching net-zero by 2040 and becoming a zero-waste business by 2025. The team has already removed 65 tonnes of carbon from its operations and products since 2021, and is deeply focused on tackling e-waste and supporting 10 million circular actions.

Over the next few months, I’d love to introduce you to some of our wonderful Purpose Provocateurs from around the Virgin Group. Hopefully they will inspire you in the same way they have for me. If you know of a purpose provocateur that deserves a shout-out, tag them on my LinkedIn post.