When big brands feel the need to define their “purpose” – or as I prefer to call it, their “how and why” – does it mean the tide has changed against what was traditionally considered the “sole concept of business”?

Historically, economic theory has taught us that the purpose of business is to “offer value through products and services to customers and to make profit to increase shareholder wealth.” 

Refocusing on ‘purpose’

But look around at some of the most successful consumer brands such as Apple, Unilever, Nike and you will see that “purpose” is now up there with profit and business leaders are challenging their organisations to find (or rediscover) their purpose. 

A recent survey by Deloitte determined that 87% of executives believed companies perform best if their purpose goes beyond profit. 

Profit is critical, it is not dirty word, it is needed to provide economic stability, to feed investment and innovation.

But running alongside this is wave of focus on the “how and why” of business which attracts business growth and skilled staff.

The future of profit

So I wonder, what is the future for organisations who are still purely focused on profit for its own sake?

I am seeing this tide of change increasingly in the work and projects in which I am involved. It is clear to see some organisations that are awakening to this zeitgeist and those businesses are seemingly growing and prospering. 

Implementing social value

In the last few weeks alone, I spent a day with senior leaders looking to define and stretch the “social value” their organisations can deliver as part of business-as-usual, and I also worked with a similar group looking to fundamentally change the their operations are delivered, at really progressive pace. 

I have read investor reports that have identified that large financial institutions are recognising that radical change is needed to address rising inequality and man-made climate change. 

I have seen the launch of new joined up campaigns to address air quality in London and learnt more about new business models challenging the existing linear models and improving wellbeing in work.

Good is the new cool!

When I go to Clerkenwell Design Week I often bemoan the lack of sustainable initiatives, but at the 2019 edition I saw a packed room focused on “Designing with Climate in Mind”; and when Eco Innovator Mark Shayler shared that “Good is the new Cool”, I thought: “‘Yes, about time!”

We are regularly bombarded with much negativity about the state of our nation and planet.  There is a lot of uncertainty and polarity that is impacting on business planning.  But alongside these negatives, we are witnessing seeds of change.

“We are all responsible for helping to nurture these when we see them, to help deliver a better type of business and society.”

Don’t get left behind…

So if your organisation is still focusing just on the “what” they are doing, and not ”why” then perhaps it is time to take a look around and consider ”how” business can operate in a better way for staff, society, the environment and ultimately the bottom line.   

Contact me 

P.S. Check out more good news from the Circular London week..