Walking the Talk
Raising the Purpose Banner (Again) Is Only the Start

It is progress when communications and CSR teams unite under the purpose banner. But to deliver sustainable success for all, it is critical that executive teams and their Boards hot-wire purpose into the core of their business strategy.

It's great to see my partners, MartinJenkins, and their clients in New Zealand making strides forward. It is progress when communications and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) teams unite under the purpose banner*. But to deliver sustainable success for all, it is critical that executive teams and their Boards grasp the initiative and hot-wire purpose into the core of their business strategy. When that happens, purpose is elevated and given the status it requires to affect real change. It subsumes old-school, generic mission/vision statements and becomes the Single Organising Idea (SOI), of the business and the ecosystem it both influences and relies upon. 

The positive impact of an SOI is tangible and, in some parts of the ecosystem, almost immediate. For example, internally, staff sense being part of a new and meaningful movement that matters not only to the wellbeing of the business but to their own personal wellbeing. Externally, ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) factors aligned with an SOI, designed to deliver sustainable value for all stakeholders, attracts interest from long-term institutional investors. Meanwhile, admiration of the SOI sparks interest from the most motivated in the employment market; and game-changing innovations that align with the SOI arrive via new, dynamic partnerships and enhanced collaboration with existing ones in supply chains and elsewhere.

It’s all very positive and, of course, all very possible, but to make any of this happen, we need the 'activist CEOs' referenced in publications such as the Harvard Business Review and CEO Magazine to show up, get involved and start delivering. 

This does not mean speaking out or standing up for 'cherry-picked' causes. That is just cynical, short-term brand management, dressed up as CSR or ‘shared value,’ with an eye on the perceived brand preferences of Millennials. 

No. This is about radical realignment and organisational development that will deliver practical outcomes. It's about fundamentally redirecting the businesses they lead to deliver actions at scale that will save planet and people. 

The tools are there to activate and achieve such a transformation, as demonstrated during, for example, SparkLabs in New Zealand; in the US, with Sustainable Brands; and in the UK at Business Fights Poverty in the last four months. But according to the experts, the time to use them is fast running out.

This post first appeared on LinkedIn on July 22, 2019.


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