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13 January 2014

Does your boss put purpose beyond profit?

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‘The need for purpose is unique to human beings. We’re the only species capable of reflecting on why we are here. “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it by living someone elses life,” said Apple’s Steve Jobs. This hunger for purpose is universal and transcends any specific religion or set of beliefs. Adding value to others, and to the common good, gives us a powerful source of energy in the form of meaning and significance. The more we contribute the more valuable we feel.’  (From The Way we Work isn’t Working by Tony Schwartz, 2010)

In 2014 our blog will explore why many companies the world over now focus on their own ‘purpose beyond profit’. There is a strong belief that over the next decade the business community will become polarised – those with purpose and those with lack of purpose.

Companies that will thrive and grow will be those that:

produce pro-social products and services
have a compelling vision and purpose
put quality first
actively develop and show commitment to their employees
invest in their community
and, above all, are seen ‘to do the right thing’ by all their stakeholders.

Companies where the bottom line is everything, where the end justifies the means, those that have limited vision, overwork their employees and see their workforces as interchangeable, and those that ignore the wider community will, over the longer term, disappear.

It’s very simple. Employees who understand why the company they work for exists beyond the financials will work with more positive energy, more loyalty and will most likely be more efficient. Customers that see the companies they buy their goods and services from behaving as good corporate citizens (i.e. paying their taxes, treating their staff and supply chains with respect) will repay them with loyalty and ultimately become ‘fans’ where a relationship goes beyond the  transactional and the consumer feels that the company has similar values to their own.

Which kind of company do you work for?

Further reading: In Davos on 22 January Unilever CEO Paul Poleman mounted a spirited attack on corporations that place profits above purpose, claiming that his own company has a “moral obligation” to help address the world’s problems.  Read more in the Holmes Report here