What’s the point? I’m sure there’s more than one or two of us who have recently been sitting at home, scratching our heads and wondering what is the point of everything. Where has life’s meaning and purpose gone as we sail the choppy seas of Covid?
Many of us may also have found that in the absence of meaning or purpose, life and well-being have taken something of a turn for the worse. Humans suffer without a context of purpose or a sense of meaning.
Extending that rationale into a larger, more organised corporate entity – often the expression of the human collective – should yield no real difference. Corporates and businesses who have lost a sense of themselves, of their meaning or purpose, inherently fare worse than those that have them. I’ll quote some facts and figures from some very prestigious sources to support the case. But surely it’s common sense?
The bottom line purpose of companies is just that. The bottom line. Profit. Our capitalist system is designed such that those corporates and businesses that do not generate profit cease to function. The core corporate purpose is profit. But beyond that corporate Purpose (capital P) is starting to impact the scale of that profit and the behaviour and effectiveness of those who are engaged to create it.
We have been circling this for some time. As humans do. Re-inventing the wheel, possibly, or perhaps just filing its edges in order for it to run smoother as society evolves. Social responsibility was all the rage a decade ago. CSR popped up. Some embraced it. Others gave it to the legal director to have in their portfolio. That spoke volumes, that it should be a checklist to stay compliant with rather than an opportunity to embrace employees and famously “make the difference”.
Now all companies have CSR. It seems to me that a company having CSR is as sensible, and necessary, as a man wearing his trousers to work. How can a company NOT be socially responsible? That in itself is a win as not much more than a decade ago few were even asking the question.
CSR then very much came to embody environmental practice. Again, how could a company NOT deploy an environmental policy? Well, truth is, most DIDN’T. We have a lot to thank Youtube for now that quietly pouring your toxic ink into a river that feeds a local community can be instantly broadcast to the world.
So what then of Purpose? Recently, the CEO of Alva Group wrote that the first rule of Purpose is that you don’t talk about Purpose. This was in response to the negative effect of Covid-19. Or in other words, this is not the time to be banging drums. I don’t agree. Covid-19 is having an effect on the landscape and on society. The massive disruption to the old system is showing up its flaws. How did we really all commute hours on overcrowded trains to sit in massive offices when actually we have the technology, and the trust, to work an alternative method?
Nor is it any accident in this time of introspection that we are taking a lateral look at ourselves through movements such as Black Lives Matter and also more fully realising the effects of our own carbon impact on the planet now that carbon has been grounded on runways and in garages.
Society is collectively manifesting its own sense of self, and for many, their purpose.
Corporates have a lead role to play. Mercedes F1 painted its cars black in respect of BLM. Could we imagine anything like that in the time of Malcolm X?? Corporates identifying their Purpose, and ways in which that will impact the world around them and how that is communicated are all going to be major factors in what we see and how we start reacting to brands, products and services. The millennials, with their smart phones, are here.
So now for some of those stats that back all this up. There are hundreds of web pages on Google search. As long as two years ago Ernst and Young, whose mantra is now “Building a better working world”(case proven), opened its Why business must harness the power of purpose report with, “For an increasing number of businesses and their employees, the pursuit of profit is no longer enough” before outlining the six key reasons why corporates need Purpose: 1. The trust deficit (thank the banking crisis), 2. Sustainability (unavoidable and also good for efficiency), 3. Social inequality (can no longer escape that 1% own 50% of the world economy), 4. Rising social media (no escape now folks), 5. Demand for longer term thinking (no longer about short term shareholder but long term value) and 6. Digitization (7 billion people will access mobile broadband by 2021…).
So what is Purpose? Purpose is authenticity. More than a mission statement and more than CSR, it is the blend of all of it, to the core of a company and its decisions. Those that have it will be here to stay because it also creates profit. It creates staff who are engaged. It creates a reaction from consumers to engage. And because those who pay it lip service will be found out.
What’s the point?
The point is to have one…