Action instead of rhetoric: How to implement purpose in companies

Purpose is more than just a statement. Why companies usually only implement it in communication and how messages become actions

life purpose

Author: Julia

Purpose: The reason or purpose that we do or create something and that things exist at all. But why is it then such a great challenge to implement purpose? Perhaps because most of us live in a society where everything is available, wherever and whenever. In fact, we even live in the wealthiest society of all time. Which is why overconsumption is the logical consequence. So it is not surprising that we have long since exceeded the ecological capacities of our planet. However, more and more people are changing their perspective and developing a more extensive awareness - especially since the Pandemic.

The development is driven by savvy millennials and the Gen Z. These generations are not afraid to use their voice and always question the truth behind brands or products. Accordingly, companies are confronted with new values ​​that put them under pressure to rethink their purpose and initiate change. But how exactly can we change?

Rise of a new purpose culture

Less than a decade ago, executives hardly spoke of it purpose. And when they did, it was really only to maximize shareholder value. Today's leaders think differently: "We're the first generation of leaders who can't say we didn't know - and we're also the last generation with the ability to make a difference," said Innocent Drinks CEO Douglas Lamont. However, it is difficult to define purpose in concrete terms. After all, its meaning varies from individual to individual.

So let's just start: As Simon Sinek said in his famous TED Talk, it all starts with that Why. Why do we actually do what we do? What is our biggest goal? And why are we actually here? Purpose-oriented approaches are productive for building and strengthening companies, leading movements or inspiring people. It is important that the impulse to create a purpose culture can come from every floor of a company. Not only managers have the potential and the opportunity to contribute their strengths and passions in order to provide meaningful added value. However, initiatives on the subject purpose go beyond marketing and sales. Only then can they have relevant impact.

Purpose means growth - no limitations

The problem with meaningful change: Executives are often hesitant because they fear a drop in sales or the loss of various interest groups. Investing in purpose, people, society or the planet mean that they can no longer invest in cheap and unethical resources. However, to do good also means to act well. And that's exactly why purpose-oriented companies are currently thriving and helping to change the world for the better.

Purpose cover

According to a recent study by the Harvard Business Review, 52% of purpose-driven companies experience growth of over 10%, compared to just 42% of companies that do not have a clear purpose. In addition, purpose-driven companies benefit from greater global expansion, more product launches, and success in major transformation efforts. Accordingly, HBR and EY found that 90% of executives recognize the importance of purpose. Both for companies and for society as a whole.

So companies are more successful when they have a clearly defined purpose. This leads to more employee engagement, higher customer loyalty and therefore, of course, increased revenue. More precisely, he also provides more Transparency in corporate strategy. It empowers people to drive innovation and opens new opportunities for partnerships with different stakeholders - even with competitors to develop new business models. In times of crisis, it also strengthens resilience and adaptability, overcomes trust deficits and promotes equality as well as sustainability. Above all, it motivates: it connects to our basic human need to be part of something bigger and gives meaning to what we do.

Bridging the gap between rhetoric and reality

Many companies still face challenges when it comes to putting their purpose into action. Often they even lack an understanding of how far he can deviate from a mission (was), a vision (wo) and values (such as) differs. It is therefore not surprising that, according to BoF, there is a considerable rhetorical gap between authentic sustainability measures and the communicative statements made by companies. A recent study conducted by McKinsey revealed that 82% of those surveyed know the purpose of their company, but only 42% have the feeling that it is actually being implemented. In addition, only 11% of the purpose statements concern social commitment and meaningful work, although these points are most important to employees.

So how do you start changing this? First you need to understand where you are right now. This also means leaving your comfort zone and recognizing weak points. Because small businesses typically work with flatter hierarchies and less rigid structures, identifying a purpose often feels more natural to them. Basically, it's about why you started and why you get up every morning. For larger companies, this realization is often a difficult task and requires persuasion. And along several hierarchies. In addition, every company must understand what kind of purpose it wants to define. Namely, according to HBR, Purpose is used in three meanings: Competence (the function that our product performs), Culture (the intention with which we run our company) and cause (the social good we strive for). All three types can be useful Why create.

Purpose statements that inspire

Many brands have already managed to define their purpose authentically and successfully, others have simply misused the approach. Keyword woke or greenwashing. However, more and more brands are showing that it is worth setting a good example and have even achieved cult status with their purpose. Tesla stands for "accelerating the transition to sustainable energy" while Stella McCartney is committed to "always acting responsibly, honestly and accountably today, while making a positive impact on people, the planet and all that lives in it so we can protect it for tomorrow".

Purpose Bethany-2

Source & Copyright by Bethany Williams

In addition to sustainable purpose statements, others aim for empowerment and ethics. For example, Libresse aims to drive change by "breaking taboos that hold women back" and Nike, known for its political activism, "bringing innovation and inspiration to every athlete in the world (if you've got a body, you're an athlete)". How brands implement such statements is shown, for example Brunello Cucinelli. He established a foundation to support his philanthropic goals. In addition, every new collection is the Trailblazerin Bethany Williams expression of their mission to overtake stereotypical role models.

Listen to your brand!

Where does your brand come from? What are your roots? And what is your passion? Ask yourself essential questions and define your most important skill to contribute to the good of meanness. It can be an emotional process. As soon as this is done, it is a matter of anchoring your purpose in the corporate culture and strategy. This also means involving all interest groups authentically and transparently. And this is exactly what success depends on: address facts and feelings to inspire and convince people.

At this point you can communicate in three directions. 1) Inside the company to reach consensus with all employees, 2) with all stakeholders along the entire value chain and 3) externally with consumers to mobilize them as part of the movement. Helpful: Develop a plan with credible, measurable and reportable actions that impact purpose. However, it is particularly relevant to never forget that honesty and Transparency are an absolute must in a continuous improvement process.

With a clearly defined purpose to become a good corporate citizen

All in all, purpose is making brands rethink their values ​​and the way it is created. Prospective thinking is crucial in a world of widespread growth and change. Becoming a better corporate citizen is therefore the best way to respond to our fast-moving and volatile world.

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