Business

Purpose and profit

Profit And Purpose – Why They Can And Should Go Hand In Hand

Win-win with a Purpose Economy

Should businesses do the right thing or do the profitable thing?

D/SRUPTION’s Kev Cooke argues that the successful organisations of the future will be doing both

We used to speak of ‘business’ and ‘society’ as two separate entities, but business is and always has been a part of society – made up from, and reliant on its members. As the complex relationships between business and society merge and become further entwined, it is more important than ever for businesses to draw around a common purpose, not just in pursuit of profit but also in terms of positive impact on the world around us. People as both consumers and as employees of businesses are today demanding greater transparency, accountability and responsibility in all aspects of their public lives. As a result, organisations are recognising the need to build purpose into the core of their work.

It’s taken as a given that businesses need to innovate, evolve and adapt in order to survive. We have seen the rate at which this is happening increase exponentially, sometimes catching businesses off guard and exposing them to a threat of disruption. Whether you’re a reluctant innovator or a born change maker, like it or not, a rapid rate of change is inevitable and a positive response to it is necessary for survival.

The need for continuous innovation and evolution is a product of our time – a baseline from which the businesses that survive will operate. However, with the shifting demands of society, yet another factor – purpose – is becoming central.

Purpose will become as fundamental to business success as innovation has in the face of change. . . First we wanted it, then we wanted it faster – now we want it better.

We want more

It has been suggested perhaps unkindly, that many businesses exist purely to perpetuate the problems that they sell the solution to, but as we demand more from our businesses and expect and them to be better, we also expect them to fulfil loftier and more noble aims. Most noticeable and disruptive (in the colloquial sense) is that we are demanding this at an ever increasing rate.

As consumers we want it all – high performing products and services, the right price and now importantly a purpose we can connect with. Sustainability is increasingly a major factor in buying decisions and consumers are now looking to rally round important causes and increasingly are looking for brands that make a positive difference while making minimal impacts in the new purpose driven economy.

Society has become more interconnected and people demand greater transparency, while many do so willingly, businesses are being forced to become more visible through circumstance – and this is no bad thing. And while perhaps not quite gone, the days of businesses existing purely for profit while ignoring their wider social impacts and responsibilities are definitely numbered.

More than ever, people want to be working for a purpose driven organisation and evidence is mounting that those working in such businesses are both happier and more productive.

There is no clear downside to building a wider social responsibility into our work. Visionary leaders who have decided to face up to these responsibilities are building better businesses. As people demand increased accountability, responsibility, fairness and opportunity across society – businesses are forced to respond, which many do willingly. Building your business around benevolent purpose and considering the wider social impacts of your organisation actually is a boon to your bottom line.

People are attracted to businesses that deliver high quality not only in terms of products and services, but also in terms of alignment with their own priorities. Purpose leads to a more integrated relationship between business and society in ways that are beneficial to both.

There is no reason why a business can’t deliver financial success and benefit society. Customers demand it, and if they don’t today you can be certain they will tomorrow. As more forward thinking businesses take responsibility – if all else is equal, the company offering the greatest positive impact is the obvious choice for the consumer.

Benevolent business is good business

Many reading this are fortunate to have opportunities far beyond the majority of people in the world today. I encourage you to take a moment to consider your organisation and the responsibilities of your business in relation to building a better society and environment in which all can thrive.

Profit and purpose can and should go together – having a purpose that consumers support is a selling point, a differentiator – and the right thing to do.

What emerges is a Purpose Economy, built on the ethos that profit and purpose can and should go hand in hand. Forward thinking organisations see the potential of embedding purpose at the core of their business. Those organisations understand that business can be a force for good and also realise that the cost of inaction often exceeds the cost of action. Moving beyond the traditional boundaries of corporate social responsibility is no longer an optional extra, it is essential for the businesses to today to become the leaders of tomorrow.

Read more in D/SRUPTION magazine’s ‘Purpose’ edition

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