Purpose—an organization’s reason that it exists, beyond profits and grounded in humanity—has become a mandate for businesses of all sizes and sectors.
With roots in philanthropy, corporate citizenship, shared values and today corporate social responsibility (CSR), purpose goes beyond those practices. In fact, it starts from within—with the very core of a company’s “why,” roots and heritage, values, and most importantly, with employees. For purpose to be authentic, it must be built upon these foundational elements, co-created with critical stakeholders, and designed to tap resources from across the business—from innovation and development to operations and culture.
In an era of “purpose washing,” more organizations are adopting a purpose purely to support reputational goals, add marketing patina or serve as a PR hook. On its face, a purpose façade might appear lovely and attract consumers, but long-term it will fail.
This leads to the critical point of cleaning house: Like humans, companies are not perfect—and that’s truly O.K. What matters is whether