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With great purpose comes great responsibility

With great purpose comes great responsibility

The Purpose revolution has changed the way organizations are doing business today. There is a growing consensus among leaders that businesses exist not simply to make money, but also to make the world a better place – often as reflected in a brand’s Meaningful Purpose.

Purpose and sustainability: a symbiotic relationship

In the last couple of years, we have seen the sustainability revolution being merged with a Purpose revolution. So, when you talk about Purpose, you cannot ignore its relationship with sustainability, as sustainability is a key ingredient for an organization’s Purpose and its values. A Purpose-driven organization has a clear role in society, and is similarly clear about its a reason for existence. A strong, successful Purpose is authentic, has true meaning, and acts as a compass for every business decision. At the same time, a strong Purpose has a clear element of acting responsibly – making a sustainable way of doing business the basis of a strong Purpose. Consider it a symbiotic relationship. Purpose and sustainable strategies need each other, and make each other stronger.

Driving change  

Doing business with a focus on the greater good is becoming the "new normal." Organizations are more and more seen as places to work with other likeminded people, with a shared intention to create a positive impact on society – as guided by strong Purpose and sustainability strategies. Profit and growth are means, not an end. Organizations such as Too Good To Go, Heineken, Fairphone, De Vegetarische Slager and Tony's Chocolonely are great examples of organizations that work from a clear purpose and are successfully changing entire markets. Although quite different types of organizations, they all have clear visions for Purpose that are reflected across their entire businesses – as well in their gutsy, Purpose-driven leadership.

Purpose-driven leadership

A successful Purpose can lead a company forward. It becomes the engine and compass of a company, and can create a sustainable competitive advantage, both financially and from a brand preference perspective. However, in order to make that purpose fly, an organization requires Purpose-driven leadership and commitment from the top. This type of leader is a true advocate of their organization’s Purpose. They know how to inspire their people, and how to create a shared sense of Purpose within the whole organization.

Successful Purpose-driven leaders constantly reflect on where they are and where they want to be. They are honest about roadblocks on the way, and accept that there are no perfect answers. They are also leaders who have the courage to build their companies to meet the needs of all stakeholders, and who recognize the importance of their role in society. In the words of Feike Sijbesma, former CEO of Royal DSM: “A leader must have the guts and courage to step out of the system.”  Fortunately, more and more top executives are stepping up and leading the change, in all sectors: from Royal Philips and Rabobank, to Danone, IKEA, and Lego.  

In short: great Purpose is inextricably tied to feelings of social responsibility – which must be harnessed by gutsy, effective leadership in order to truly fulfill companies’ Purpose and sustainability strategies.

Charlotte de Voogd
Director Communications & Sustainability

Hill+Knowlton Strategies

Jelle Gabriëlse
Senior Account Executive

Hill+Knowlton Strategies