It’s a fallacy – not to mention an outdated way of thinking – to assume a business cannot do good in the world and make a profit at the same time. On the contrary, the brands that are looking to make meaningful connections with consumers are often able to effect sustainable social change while making money.

According to Sizakele Marutlulle, founder of strategy and ideas lab Marutlulle & Co, brands can grow while creating sustainable social change. In fact, they can create sustainable relationships with their consumers by going beyond selling, she says, adding that businesses need to approach corporate social investment in a different way. “It should be about more than merely making a donation, but about creating tools that will allow people to become self-sustaining,” she says.

Marutlulle is passionate about bringing business and sustainability together, particularly when it comes to the African continent. “There’s a lot of hype around brands becoming ‘customer-centric’. For me, it goes beyond that: we need to be ‘human-centric’ and ask what brands are doing to support the whole human being and not only the consumer aspect,” she says.

The big take-out:

Today’s businesses should focus on solving business problems in culturally creative ways that will ensure both profitability and a sustainable future for society.

As such, marketing should be reaching further than the segmented LSM groups. Brands today will struggle if they have not defined their purpose, she explains, referring to what brands do to better humanity and create social capital.

“Social capital is the favourable outcome of social investment. Purpose-led businesses that are society-facing have created licence for their brands to engage with consumers on a deeper, more lasting level. The starting point is always a clear purpose,” she says, adding that this social capital allows a business to retain its profitability.

While Africa has an abundance of problems, it also has an abundance of creative opportunities. Marutlulle illustrates with Fentrepreneurs, a concept her company has registered and that, quite literally, refers to female entrepreneurs. “[They are] so important for growth on the continent and yet they are beset by unnecessary challenges such as the bias of traditional lending institutions, which affects their ability to creatively become a part of the solution to business problems on the continent. There are so many opportunities for businesses to create scalable, future-fit solutions in Africa simply by solving problems in a culturally creative manner,” she concludes.