Published 2 months ago.
About a 5 minute read.
For organizations ready to embrace the word of the year, here are 3 suggestions for how your organization can embed and bring to life a truly authentic, activated purpose.
Merriam-Webster's 2023 Word of the
is “authentic” — reflecting a global shift toward sincerity, genuineness and
credibility. It’s a word I’ve put at the forefront of my ethos and work since
1983, and for good reason. Since then, I’ve helped hundreds of organizations
identify and embed a purpose — or reason for being beyond profits. Our “stake
in the ground” has always been that
purpose must be authentic to produce enterprise-wide returns, and — more
importantly — resonate with stakeholders, especially employees. That’s why I was
thrilled to learn it was 2023’s Word of the Year.
One of the first companies I partnered with to develop an authentic purpose was
Rockport. Back in the ‘80s, I helped Rockport
of empowering people to be healthier through walking. This served the company
very well for decades; and it led the walking movement through research and
trusted health content — ultimately leading to 5x growth over four years.
Rockport is an early example of how purpose must be far more than just an
inspiring statement. Purpose statements such as Best
Buy’s “Enrich lives through technology” or Kerry
Group’s “Inspiring Food, Nourishing
Life” must be embedded in culture, operations, innovation and societal
engagement and have measured impact.
So why is “authentic” having its moment today? I was intrigued by this statement
from Merriam-Webster: "Although clearly a desirable quality, 'authentic' is
hard to define and subject to debate." The word “authentic” has several
meanings, ranging from "not false or imitation" to "true to one's own
personality, spirit, or character." When it comes to business purpose, there’s
no debate as to the word’s meaning — nor any question regarding the power of
authenticity. Discovering the true ethos of a company and embracing it inspires
alignment and stakeholder engagement for significant outcomes.
While purpose is under attack from the morass of woke
and questionable ESG
what an organization stands for today is more important than ever. This was a
leading topic at CECP’s recent Board of Boards meeting
in early November. This closed-door, CEO-only session — which focused on
leadership in a volatile and ever-changing world — included CEOs Mark
Clouse (Campbell Soup
Company), Sara Armbruster
(Steelcase Inc), and Joanne
Join us for a transformational experience at SB Brand-Led Culture Change — May 8-10 in Minneapolis. This event brings together hundreds of brand leaders eager to delve into radical lifestyle shifts and sustainable consumer behavior change at scale. The trends driving cultural acceleration are already underway, and you can be at the forefront of this transformative movement.
For leaders such as these, and other organizations ready to embrace the word of
the year, I gathered a few suggestions. Read on to learn how your organization
can embed and bring to life a truly authentic, activated purpose.
I always say: “Purpose is meant to be lived — not laminated on a wall
plaque.” Purpose Under Pressure,
my 30th piece of research since 1993, demonstrated that employees want
authentic, vibrant and actionable
embedded throughout their work:
91 percent felt their purpose-driven company gave them comfort during
84 percent of respondents said they would only work at a purpose-driven
66 percent of employees cite their employers’ positive impact as more
important than before the pandemic — identical to the increase in
importance of salary and compensation
35 percent of employees say a company’s positive impact is among the top two most important attributes when deciding to stay or leave a job
Authenticity begins with employees. A purpose-driven organization fosters a culture where employees feel seen, valued and heard — where leadership
actively engages with the workforce, acknowledges challenges, and champions
diversity and inclusion. Authenticity, in this context, translates to a
workplace where passion and purpose
creating a dynamic environment that nurtures employee wellbeing.
Companies that authentically live their purpose don't just sell products;
they build relationships that generate mutual value. Externally,
authenticity manifests itself in how a company engages with all its
stakeholders — including customers and consumers, suppliers and communities.
Customers & consumers: Companies that authentically live their purpose
understand their customers' needs, preferences and concerns — resulting in
products and experiences that resonate on a deeper level. They are
transparent about products, services and business practices and deliver on
their promises — consistently.
Suppliers: Purpose-driven organizations actively seek partnerships with
suppliers that align with their values — fostering long-term relationships
built on trust and shared objectives.
Communities: For a company to be authentic in its engagement with
communities, it must go beyond philanthropy and social-impact
Authenticity involves actively listening to community needs, collaborating
on solutions, and leveraging the insights and expertise of those in the
communities they serve.
Using purpose as their navigation system, authentic companies set goals and
measure their progress against them. Ongoing, transparent reporting is key
regarding achieved and missed targets. Humility and honesty are critical to
report on purpose activations — both when they work and don’t.
In the evolving landscape of business, authenticity is more critical than ever
before. Companies that embrace authenticity as the driving force behind their
purpose will not only weather the storms of change, but thrive despite them.
Published Dec 7, 2023 8am EST / 5am PST / 1pm GMT / 2pm CET
Carol is internationally recognized for her work in Purpose and CSR. Carol Cone ON PURPOSE is the return to her entrepreneurial roots and life’s passion: to educate, inspire and accelerate purpose programs and impacts for organizations, nonprofits and individuals around the globe.