Meet Carolyn Butler-Madden | The Cause Effect

Author, speaker and Chief Purpose Activist at Purpose consultancy The Cause Effect, Carolyn Butler-Madden believes in a world where business is a force for good and brands drive profit through purpose.


She helps business leaders define their Purpose and embed it strategically into their business and brand to deliver meaningful social impact AND competitive advantage.

Her mission is to make Social Purpose a vital part of business in Australia and beyond.

Carolyn’s Amazon bestselling book, Path-To-Purpose is Australia’s first book on this subject. She’s also a contributing author to international best-selling book “Better Business, Better Life, Better World. The Movement”.

 More recently, Carolyn spoke with former Miss World, Erin Holland on the Tia Maria ‘One of a Kind’ podcast. In episode 4 of this series, Carolyn shares with Erin her motivations behind starting The Cause Effect, the challenges she has overcome in business, the importance of businesses aligning themselves with a purpose, what other companies are doing it right when it comes to purpose and so much more.


Carolyn Butler Madden


What ignited the spark in you to start The Cause Effect? And was there a significant turning point?

I went to one of the world’s biggest conferences on Social Purpose in the USA in 2012. It utterly transformed my world and career! Brands strategically aligning themselves with a cause through long-term partnerships and changing the world.

One that stood out for me was awarded that year’s Halo Award, the highest honour for Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives and Cause Marketing. Pampers nappies, a Procter & Gamble brand had been partnering with UNICEF for several years in their “One Pack = One Vaccine” campaign, targeting Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus (MNT).

The speaker accepting the award talked about how the campaign started as a marketing initiative to sell more Pampers Nappies at Christmas time. When the campaign started, a newborn was dying from tetanus every 4 minutes, in some of the poorest countries in the world. The campaign rolled out globally and became an annual feature. Within 3 years the Pampers team had realized this was so much bigger than a marketing campaign and they set a goal to eliminate MNT from the world. They’ve eradicated it from 20 countries.

The P&G speaker told us it was the most successful marketing campaign that P&G had ever run globally and the life changing impact it was having was massive. She said, “they would not stop until they had achieved their goal to eliminate MNT from the world”.

I came back like a person possessed! This was the kind of work that I just knew I had to do, whatever it took.


What makes your business unique?

We have created a unique methodology that unlocks the full value of a meaningful purpose strategy.

What makes us unique is the way we work – hand-in-hand with our clients, either via live and/or online workshops; working with their leadership teams. It’s a collaborative journey because my belief is Purpose has to be genuine. It can’t be manufactured. It can’t be created by an external consultant or agency, coming up with a snappy statement. It has to come from the people who lead the organisation.

Our role is to show them the way; asking relevant questions to help them understand and identify their purpose. Then to provide a journey with some specific frameworks which helps them to embed it into their organization.


How important do you think social impact is for business? Is this something consumers are looking for more?

It is probably the single most important strategy that businesses need to have over the next five years. Meaningful Purpose – the kind that creates change in the world – is what distinguishes some of the world’s most successful brands from the rat-pack. Younger consumers started driving this change, but now it has become mainstream.

People make decisions emotionally and justify them rationally. Brands need to recognize this if they want to thrive.


Who do you look up to in business? Who inspires you?

Business leaders who are stepping into the role of societal leaders inspire me to no end. People like Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard and recently departed CEO, Rose Marcario. Also, Unilever’s ex-CEO Paul Polman who implemented their Sustainable Living Plan Strategy 12 years ago, way ahead of the curve, and oversaw it for 10 years. He had to face huge criticism, but he had the last laugh. Their sustainable and Purpose-led brands have consistently grown faster and contributed to more profit than Unilever’s other brands. Unilever are now working towards a future where all of their brands are “sustainable living brands”.


Who are the purpose driven businesses you admire?

Patagonia – they’re in business to save the planet.

Airbnb – helping people feel like they can belong anywhere (fighting for diversity and inclusion around the world).

Salesforce – the business of business is to improve the world and they do this through their 1:1:1 model (1% of employees time; 1% of product and 1% of equity to support non-profit and community organisations).

Zambrero – Mexican Fast Food Restaurant here in Australia. Also in other parts of the world now. Their Plate for Plate initiative is the beating heart of their organization. (Every bowl or burrito you buy, a plate of food is donated to feed hungry people via their partners Rise Against Hunger and Foodbank).

Unilever – they’re in business to make sustainable living commonplace.

Beaumont People (Australian recruitment agency) – connecting people to meaningful work (and enabling more opportunities for meaningful work).


Where do you see yourself and your business in 10 years?

For our business, I’d love to find a way to scale what we do, so more businesses get the benefits of it. This might be through partnerships or licensing – not sure yet on the how. But the “why” is crystal clear – it’s our Purpose today – to make meaningful Purpose – Social Purpose – a vital part of business in Australia and beyond.

For myself, I’d love to be upping the ante on the speaking I do – sharing our message to businesses far and wide.


Who are the women around you that allow you to thrive?

My 22 year old daughter, Siena, who works with me part-time while juggling Uni. She’s probably my biggest supporter, cheering me on at every opportunity.

My mother, now almost 91, was the one who first put the fire in my belly and gave me the foundations of a strong social conscience.

My sister who gave me emotional support during those early times when I started the business and we were broke!

Countless friends who have cheered me from the sidelines and supported me.

Our clients. Funnily enough, most of them are women. Wonder if that’s a coincidence?!


You can listen to Carolyn’s podcast episode and the other ‘One of a Kind’ guests on Apple or Spotify.

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