Published 5 years ago.
About a 5 minute read.
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When a statement is too generic, it can be challenging for employees to connect to it and for the entire organization to be galvanized by that social purpose.
Are corporations sociopathic or socially purposeful? Just over 15 years ago, the
the pathological nature of corporate life. Its argument channeled worldwide
concerns that business was a scourge on the planet.
Now it’s 2019, and the producers might have reason to be more optimistic if they
saw what’s going on with a growing number of companies that believe that their
enduring reason for being should be creating a better
It’s called “social purpose,” and over a dozen Canadian companies are on an
adventure with the United Way’s Social Purpose
Institute to define or refine the humanitarian reason
their organization exists.
These adventurous companies are on the path to articulating their social purpose
and scaling it through their business models. Their work is based on research
into the definition of social
and the business case for social
I conducted for the United Way over the past two years. They are charting a path
to redefine the purpose of business in society, starting in Greater
Vancouver and expanding from there. The new United Way Social Purpose
Institute is helping them along, every step of the way.
As Richard Kouwenhoven, CEO of Hemlock Printers — one of the innovator
companies, stated: “The process so far has really helped us refocus our
organization — the outcome of our efforts will be a simple and concise mission,
vision and purpose, which will really help guide our decision-making in the
Recently, the United Way and four of these innovating companies joined forces to
hear from two dozen “critical friends”— local community and business leaders
acting as advisors — on how to enhance and scale their social purpose efforts.
The advisors asked:
What is new with your social purpose?
What does the future world look like? What changes do you want?
If you were to be successful, what would the outcome be?
How do your core products accelerate the change you seek to create?
What was the inspiration for the founders in starting the company?
These critical friends cautioned that: “When a statement is too generic, it can
be challenging for employees to connect to it and for the entire organization to
be galvanized by that social purpose.”
Below is a list of criteria that critical friends should look for in a social
purpose statement that creates value for the company and its stakeholders.
Companies developing or enhancing their social purpose can learn from this
This is a watershed moment for these companies and their stakeholders that can
drive both business growth and the potential for social good. What better way
for your company to start a new year than with a project to define your
organization’s social purpose and what it stands for?
For more, check out the United Way's Social Purpose
Institute and its resources.
Published Feb 7, 2019 1am EST / 10pm PST / 6am GMT / 7am CET