Phil Haid is the Co-founder and CEO of Public Inc., an agency that is redefining the role of corporate engagement in social issues. With a career spanning over two decades, his work extends to collaborations with leading brands like Johnson & Johnson, Starbucks, and more, helping them navigate and amplify their social impact in the world.
As a member of the B Corp movement, Phil consistently advocates for businesses to be a force for good, integrating social benefits within their core strategy.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- [04:19] The benefits of integrating social impact for both consumers and staff
- [08:26] Examples of successful social impact integration by companies like Patagonia and Microsoft
- [10:46] The typical reasons companies reach out to Public Inc.
- [14:43] Real-world results and campaigns generated by purposeful initiatives
- [17:30] Strategies for maintaining transparency and avoiding greenwashing
- [23:58] The motivation behind founding Public Inc. and its mission-driven approach
- [31:34] Overcoming the challenges of building the company in its early days
- [34:14] How to navigate and foster remote work culture
- [39:06] Embracing honest feedback and affecting organizational change
- [42:18] Maintaining clear and consistent communication within a growing team
In this episode…
Can a strong and successful company also make a positive social impact on the world? According to Phil Haid, it can be an uphill battle to convince companies to buy into the “profit with purpose” thesis, but through determination and market evolution, it’s possible to guide even giants like Johnson & Johnson and Starbucks to marry profit and social impact.
In this episode of Inspired Insider Podcast, host Dr. Jeremy Weisz is joined by Phil Haid, CEO and Co-Founder of Public Inc., who explains how the company maintains its internal culture by encouraging transparency, open communication, and a strong adherence to shared values even while working in a remote environment. He shares how they’ve learned to lean into honest feedback to nurture an environment that promotes both individual well-being and a common mission of social change.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Johnson & Johnson
- Maple Leaf Foods Inc.
- Shoppers Drug Mart
- Terracycle.com: How to Make Money from 1.5 million Cigarette Butts & Save The World with Tom Szaky on Inspired Insider Podcast
- [Top Black Business Leader Series] CAbikes: Barefoot until age 17 to PhD at Berkeley -with Christopher Ategeka [Inspiration] on Inspired Insider Podcast
- “Purpose-driven at their core, companies are changing not only how we think about business but also how we solve pressing societal issues.”
- “We’re trying to prove that you can make as much money, or more, and do more good, not less — that’s the thesis behind Public Inc.”
- “A company without a clear purpose is like a ship without a sail — it might move, but it’s unlikely to reach its desired destination.”
- “We owe each other honesty and transparency — whether it’s facing tough feedback or sharing company details.”
- “Social change is not just about one-off campaigns, but about creating purposeful, sustained effort and sticking with it.”
Sponsor for this episode
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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.
Insider Stories from Top Leaders & Entrepreneurs…
You are listening to Inspired Insider with your host, Dr. Jeremy Weisz.
Jeremy Weisz 0:23
Dr. Jeremy Weisz here founder of InspiredInsider.com where I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders today is no different. I have Phil Haid of PublicInc.com. And, Phil, before I formally introduce you, I always like to point out other episodes people should check out of the podcast since you’re gonna have a lot of conversation on social change social issues, and really Phil helps companies bring that to light. I had the founder of TerraCycle on which was a fantastic episode talking about how do you not only eliminate waste, but not start creating more waste. And that was a fantastic episode to check out. Just a various Chris Ategeka who started a couple nonprofits. He just had an incredible story of how he came from his background to the US and ended up getting his PhD from very humble beginnings. So check that episode out with Chris. I think gig it’s one of my favorites over the past decade, that many more InspiredInsider.com and this episode is brought to you by Rise25.
At Rise25 we help businesses give to and connect to their dream 100 relationships and partnerships. And how do we do that we actually help you run your podcast, we’re an easy button for a company to launch and run a podcast, we do the full strategy, accountability and full execution, you know, Phil, we call ourselves the magic elves that work in the background to make it look easy for the company and the host. So they can build relationships and make great content and run their business and not to do anything else. So I mean, the number one thing in my life is relationships, I’m always looking at ways to give to my best relationships. And I found no better way over the past decades to profile the people and companies I most admire and share with the world what they’re working on. So if you’ve thought about podcasting, you should if you have questions, go to Rise25.com, or email [email protected]. We’re happy to answer any of your questions.
We have lots of free resources as well. So check it out. I’m excited to introduce Phil Haid. He’s the founder and CEO of Public Inc. And he started the social impact agency back in 2008, to change the way companies behave in the world, and he set out to prove profit and purpose can go hand in hand. They’ve worked with some amazing companies like Johnson & Johnson and many more. And Phil, thanks for joining me.
Phil Haid 2:48
Thanks so much. Great to be here.
Jeremy Weisz 2:50
So just talk for a second. I explained a little bit. But, um, what does Public Inc. do?
Phil Haid 2:59
Yeah, so we describe ourselves as an impact agency, we really are this hybrid of impact strategist consultancy meets creative agency. And that’s very intentional, because what we’re trying to do in the world is to accelerate change. And to really, as you just said, Jeremy like to really prove this idea that if you embed social environmental impact into your business, you can be more profitable or as profitable, as well as creating more social environmental impact.
And so, you know, that idea has a lot more currency today. But when I started the company in 2008, I did not have a lot of currency. And so what we really tried to do, and we’re part of the B Corp movement, is to really help businesses be a better force for good in the world. And that means we have to figure out how you integrate the societal benefit into the business strategy, in order for them to meet, you know, especially if you’re a publicly traded company, in order to meet your financial results, while also doing great things for your people and for the planet. And so that work is, you know, helping define your purpose. It’s helping companies think about their ESG platforms, it’s looking at their sustainability marketing, we’re marketers, we put that lens on it. It’s creating campaigns, engaging audiences and taking actions that move the world forward.
Jeremy Weisz 4:19
There’s so many benefits to that, obviously, from the consumer standpoint, also, from a staff standpoint, they feel like, you know, I’m working with a company that as just I have a greater purpose, right. I’d love for you to talk a little bit about how you have seen companies successfully integrate social impact, because anyone listening right now is founder or CEO, or they’re in the business world, and they’re thinking, you know, maybe I’m doing it, maybe I’m not doing it. Maybe I should be doing more of it. What has been successful you’ve seen of how these companies have integrated social impact in their business.
Phil Haid 4:52
Yeah, so where I would start with that’s a great question where I would start is you need to ask yourself, what kind of business are you Right, because there are certain businesses, I’ll give you some concrete examples who are purpose driven at their core, they were created to actually tackle a societal issue through a business modality, right? We’re working with Rivian, an electric car company. And if you listen to artists, Garrett’s the CEO and Founder of Rivian, whose and he’s incredible, and his team is incredible. And I’m not just saying that, because they’re our client, they really are exceptional, talented people. He created this company, but before even got into cars, he said, I want to do something to tackle what’s happening around the world and the planet, and decided to like to tackle the car industry. I mean, it’s, you know, one of the hardest industries to crack into. Here, they are purpose driven at their core. So I’ll come back to what you to directly answer your question. But I think it’s important to start to say, where are you on a spectrum? Are you purpose driven and your core, or are you just a great company who’s trying to deliver a great product or service, and you care about your people, and you care about being a good citizen of the world, that matters a whole lot. Because if you are purpose driven at your core, then why you exist. And that purpose idea has to flow through absolutely everything you do, right. And so when you look at, and you think about your brand, and how you articulate your brand, and all of that has to deliver. So all of your policies for your people, from recruitment to retention, right, all of the ways in which you produce your product, right. So you have to look at, you know, from a life cycle analysis, and so on, all of that has to be fully integrated. But there’s lots of companies and people who listen to your podcast, right, who aren’t there, but still want to do it. So there, the important thing is to get clarity on why you exist. And then really think about, what can we do? And, you know, to that sort of lens of ESG, environmental, social governance, what are the core things that we can do, that are good for our business, and good for our people and good for the planet, and get real clarity and structure around?
Actions commitments that you’re going to take? And so you always need to look at it through this lens. Does this make sense for our business? Do we have our right to be doing this? And so really, what we try to do to help companies is to map out, you know, where are you? Why do you exist? What do you do? What is important in the communities in which you live in both internal and external, and then start to map out like, you can only do so many things. So what are the key things you’re going to do that are actually good for your business, and good for the community, good for the planet?
And any company, quite frankly, can do that, but you have to take an inventory of what’s important to you, what are your values? What makes sense for your business? And then, depending on why, you know, what are the core motivations? For some, it’s about differentiation, like they see this as an opportunity. If you’re highly competitive, your product is a commodity, then differentiation is critical. So how do you stand out? What is it if you’re leaning into your sustainability that won’t be differentiated for you? So asking questions about what’s differentiated? What is authentic to us? Right? What can we credibly do that would be an additive, like all those key questions is how you’d have to map this work forward to achieve profit with purpose.
Jeremy Weisz 8:26
What are some examples of companies that are doing this? Well, I don’t know when you say that, for some reason bomba sticks out to me. I don’t know why that comes up. What examples stick out to you?
Phil Haid 8:40
For sure. So on the purpose side, you know, I mentioned Caribbean Bahamas is a great example. You know, the one that always gets held up? Because they’ve been such a leader for so long, of course, is Patagonia, right? purpose at their core. But there’s so many companies now, who you know, who are truly purpose at the core, I’m having an interesting conversation. This is a Canadian brand, but called Earthstone. So in the plant base, these are plant based milks and right, oat milk and almond milk, etc. You know, their whole reason for being is to accelerate a plant based movement, right. And there’s a tonne of those in the food category in the clothing category, which is, you know, which is challenging, because, you know, the stat that horrifies everyone is like 15% of all of our apparel gets recycled, which means 85% is ending up in landfill, right? It is so hard to be an apparel company clothing company, too. But there are laws, Eileen Fisher, I think, is a great example of a very, very sustainable, purpose driven company. So there’s a tonne, I could give you a whole list. There’s a whole tonne on there. But then there’s other companies who I would say aren’t like you wouldn’t think of as purpose LED. I’ll give you a big blue chip. I mean, Microsoft as an example, is, you know, if you look at what they’re doing from a sustainability perspective, and the ambition they have around it, particularly around being net zero. And what they’re trying to do is actually go back to the beginning of when they were producing carbon and eliminate that, right. But they’ve got big ambitions, from cybersecurity to the environment. And the same thing is true of IBM, you know, a long standing blue chip company would think, but isn’t purpose driven at their core in the way that we’re talking about it, but it’s doing, you know, is doing great things. So it just depends on where you are a lot of the food companies. Dannan, you know, is also now the biggest B Corp. I think they’re doing very good work and are very, very committed. But you know, we could go through industry, by industry, from those that are purpose driven to those that are maybe more than traditional, that are that are coming, and that are trying to become much more sustainable.
Jeremy Weisz 10:46
When people come to you. For what are they asking? Right? It’s like someone like, like you said, some people say, Oh, maybe it’s easy. Microsoft’s huge IBM sometimes, arguably, that’s tougher, in a huge organization to a when it’s not maybe from the beginning, like you said, purpose driven is core to change course on a bunch of things. What when someone comes to you at a company, and it seems like you work with larger sized companies, so you can talk about that. But what are they asking you?
Phil Haid 11:22
Yeah, so they’re asking a few different things. So we have some companies who come to us and say, help us kind of redefine our purpose, Tiffany coat. In the US, we worked with them to kind of identify this before the sale, you know, to LVMH to define their purpose as a company. And so there and the question is, well, why do that was partly to actually start to make sense of all the things that they are doing from a sustainability lens, right. So we have some companies who come for that. We have a lot of companies today who come to us, too. And you know, we could get into this, if it’s of interest later, you know, the whole debate around ESG. But they come they say like, we do all this stuff, but it’s not coordinated. It’s not aligned, right, we don’t communicate it particularly effectively. And we’re not, we don’t stand out. And so a lot of companies, you know, we work with to organize and align all of their, you know, ESG efforts. So, basically, how do you position it? What, what connects all the things you’re doing? How do you structure it and frame it? And then how do you start to communicate it and activate it both internally and externally. So we do a lot of things that we have in other companies. And so that’s, you know, we’re doing it for Big, Big Bank RBC at the moment. But we do it for all kinds we’re doing for telcos, the list goes on. A lot of companies also come with just a specific need around the campaign. Right, we need to, you know, we want to advance this issue where, you know, you think of like a Dow has been in the space forever with real beauty, but lots of companies who have issues that they’ve been working on, but they realize they need to like, they need to elevate it right, or they’ve got a commitment we’re working with. This is a Canadian brand called Shoppers Drug Mart.
And they’ve had a foundation for many years, it’s supported women’s causes, they needed more focus. And we helped them actually develop a focus around women’s health equity, actually addressing the inequities that women face. In terms of health outcomes, right. So as an example, I mean, black women have worse health outcomes as relates to breast cancer, right, and heart disease, then, then other population sets. And so that’s, that’s a problem. And so they’re actually committed to it. And so we created a strategy around it, but then we actually have to bring that out to the world. And so the campaign we created for them is called, you know, make women’s health visible, because so much of the problem is that the research is done on men, it’s not done on women, there’s not the same amount of resources that go into it. So companies are coming because they’re trying to navigate and figure out how to either better communicate, or how to have more impact in a community. And they don’t know how to do it in a really measurable, effective way that will drive both, like brand marketing, measurement outcomes, but also societal outcomes. And so what we become very adept at doing is helping them navigate the challenges right around these issues, because everyone’s scared to step in it, you know, more today than ever before. They’re so worried that if they come up with something and they get criticized, that it’s going to shut it down immediately. So how do you do something substantive that will also drive you know, actual marketing or other business metrics in a way that will be truly also impactful? Not just not just awareness, but actually moving issues forward?
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