Updated: Apr 12
In the business world, there are currently two competing ideas on what “Purpose” actually is.
The first is that Purpose answers the ‘why’ of your business. It provides a context to your organisation’s products or services. The inspiration behind your business. “The change” you want to create through your products or services.
This idea might be more valuable if it weren’t so limiting and grounded in business-as-usual. “The change” in this case is more often than not simply about marketing, over a commitment to creating real societal change. What it ends up being is a passive statement of context for your current products or services.
For example: a bank whose purpose is to help people and communities to prosper.
Not something that genuinely inspires action, innovation and impact. As a statement alone, all it does is contextualise the bank's product offerings.
The second idea is an evolution of the first...
... that Purpose today needs to be a Social Purpose – the change your organisation exists to create in the world, through AND BEYOND your products and services. This idea is a recognition of the clear needs that society has today and the capabilities that business has to meet those needs.
Simply having a business purpose statement that contextualises your product or service offering is no longer enough. If businesses wish to remain relevant to the needs and expectations of their stakeholders (employees, customers, communities, investors, shareholders and the planet), they must have a reason for existence beyond profit and business as usual. The deep challenges our society faces highlight an incredible opportunity for business to serve these needs and in so doing, become a force for good and attract high quality and loyal stakeholders.
As we move forward, I invite you to ask yourself - 'what is the purpose of our business?' 'How is it creating meaningful change in the world?'.
And finally, 'is our business living up to its potential to be a force for good?'