The Anatomy of Purpose Driven Business


Purpose-driven businesses are the future

"We believe that a company can make the world a better place".

Seventh Generation, a Home Goods company enjoying unique success in the millennial employment market, has picked a tagline which warms the hearts of its employees and customers alike. Unilever’s famous Sustainable Living brands (Dove, Ben & Jerry’s) are enjoying twice the growth of its other brands. Restoring much-needed faith in capitalism as a force for sustainability, companies like Seventh Generation and Unilever are selling millennials a silver bullet to enjoy wealth without environmental or social harm.

Purpose-driven businesses are the future. But what does a purpose-driven strategy look like? Is it as simple as commissioning a heart-warming tagline? Does it involve doubling your CSR budget? Maybe you need to cap your printer usage? In this article, I’ll explore the three things that all purpose-driven businesses do.

They all protect their right to operate

With the potent combination of digitally-enabled and politically-charged consumers, protecting your right to operate means more than a shrewd digital strategy. It means constant attention to impending PR disasters. Byron burgers felt the bite of a boycott for mistreating their immigrant workers, and even the Oscars have tripped up for failing to embrace diversity.

A truly purpose-driven company won’t run into these problems. If a company values diversity, and its employees and product is truly driven by this purpose, it is inconceivable that it will run into problems like the Oscars did. Companies who protect their right to operate by paying meticulous detail to the integrity of their supply chain, diversity figures, and positive marketing don’t hit the cliff-edge. Protect your right to operate – it’s worth it.

There are adopting one of the 4 ways to be purpose driven: the Insightful, The Noble, The Heartful, The Inclusive

During my work forensically studying the nature of the most successful purpose-driven businesses, I started to build a picture of how different companies become more purposeful. In my view, there are four tools that all companies use. Some use more, some use them all, but all purpose-driven companies use at least one. Ready? Here goes…

  • The Insightful: Purpose Led Businesses that aim to solve specific user’s need and improve their industry.
  • The Noble: Purpose Led Businesses that aim to innovate to make the world a better place.
  • The Heartfull: Purpose Led Businesses that aim to give back as much perceived value as they receive.
  • The Inclusive: Purpose Led Businesses that aim to democratise a positive, ethical or sustainable practice to a wider group of people.

They all enhance their relationship with their employees, customers and markets

Authentic, durable relationships are at the heart of all successful purpose-driven businesses. Analysing the professional discourse around the subject, it’s clear that these relationships must reach to employees, customers, and markets. Or, at least, with some slight alterations. Customers are referred to as users, employees as talent, and markets are considered to embody the environment and their society as well as they competitors. This lexical field, taken from 150 articles about purpose in the likes of Forbes and the HBR, is indicative of the kind of relationships companies must nurture in order to succeed in this space.

If your employees are only employees, your customers are only customers, and you market is only where you buy and sell, you will never develop the kinds of relationships that build loyalty and trust in this brave new world.

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