Published 2 years ago.
About a 4 minute read.
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In Canada’s first-ever Purpose in Business Week, business, government and thought leaders are creating a Roadmap to accelerate the purpose economy and mainstream social purpose in business that will require cross-sector engagement and collaboration across six critical levers.
The pandemic created a pause in the economy and an opportunity to re-examine our
assumptions about the way business operates. There’s a new, broader awareness
that the recovery phase of the pandemic can facilitate rethinking the role of
businesses in the
We’re witnessing tectonic shifts in what society expects from business and what
business expects from itself. Increasingly, more business leaders agree that
short-term, profit-driven thinking needs to be replaced by long-term,
This is the route not only to business success but the way to unlock the
resources and reach of business to tackle the climate emergency, rising
inequality, the pandemic and other societal challenges.
Bottom line: We’re looking at a historic moment to redesign an economy that is
more consistent with Canadian values. Canadians and the businesses they work for
and lead can create an inclusive, low-carbon, purpose-driven economy, powered by
the pursuit of long-term wellbeing for all — in which business, regulatory and
financial systems foster an equitable, flourishing, resilient future.
This week (Nov. 15-19) is Canada’s first-ever Purpose in Business Week;
along with the Propelling Purpose Summit (Nov.
17-18), it is laying the groundwork for Canada’s purpose-led economy. Business,
government and thought leaders are convening to create a Roadmap to accelerate
the purpose economy and mainstream social purpose in business, through six
critical levers: corporate
post-secondary education, trade and professional associations,
ecosystem enablement, public policy and social-purpose
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Interestingly, 15 percent of companies on the Toronto Stock
have a stated social purpose; though many haven’t fully integrated their purpose
into their daily business. It’s a good start, but more needs to happen to create
a purpose economy.
When BlackRock CEO Larry Fink sent his 2018 letter to
challenged CEOs to define their purpose and catapulted social purpose to the
forefront of business thinking. Fast forward to 2021, Fink reported that the
pandemic that took hold in 2020 accelerated capital investment in sustainable
assets to the tune of $288 billion globally, a 96 percent increase over the
year prior. Fink states in his 2021
that, “Over the course of 2020, we have seen how purposeful companies with
better environmental, social, and governance (ESG) profiles have outperformed
The business case to pivot to
includes better employee retention and attraction. Recent research by
points out that the current employee value proposition (EVP) now includes
traditional pay and career advancement, a newer focus on employee
“The Employee Value Proposition (EVP) now looks like a tripod, balanced on the
traditional enticements of pay and career advancement; a newer focus on employee
wellbeing, with flexible hours and remote work; and now an employer commitment
to act for good on society’s biggest challenges. Employers must stand up every
leg of this tripod if they want to win and retain the activated
Purpose-driven businesses also attract new partners in business and government,
opportunities for new mergers and academic partnerships, and NGO partners who
are equally as invested in the company’s success, given its ambition to create a
Social purpose builds trust, attracts capital and helps businesses navigate
turbulent times. Companies that opt to propel their purpose also propel trust,
employee retention, corporate culture and ultimately revenue by moving into the
realm of long-term business success.
Social-purpose companies have an ultimate goal to contribute to the common
they have a societal and/or environmental purpose as their reason to exist and
implement it in everything they do. They set deliberate, strategic societal
goals to advance their purpose. If an organization’s social purpose is to
protect the world’s
it has strategic goals tied to forestry conservation. If an organization’s
social purpose is to improve health and wellbeing, its strategic goals are tied
to national health improvements. Purpose-led companies set strategic goals that
are deliberate and deliver on the stated purpose.
In my experience helping companies develop and implement a social purpose via
the Social Purpose Institute at United Way BC,
most of the companies adopting a social purpose as their North Star have an
ambition to also help their industry become a force for good – even the small
businesses. A lot of businesses have an underlying purpose and set of
– but they haven’t formalized it. The goal is to bring their purpose to life and
plan for the future. Once unleashed, these purpose-driven companies are set to
mobilize entire sectors to contribute to a sustainable future, propelling the
Electric vehicles didn’t appear on Canada’s roads overnight, but we’re now
seeing increasing adoption — thanks to a concerted effort involving a range of
tools including government incentives and procurement, private-sector
investment, post-secondary training, production increases and rising consumer
Turning the tide in the direction of a purpose economy demands the same
multi-pronged approach — and a galvanizing effort on the part of business
leaders to champion authentic, purpose-first business as a force for good.
Published Nov 18, 2021 7am EST / 4am PST / 12pm GMT / 1pm CET