MUCH like what a foundation is to a house, a conductor is to an orchestra, and a canvas is to an artist’s masterpiece—a clear purpose is everything to an organization. It is an organization’s soul and identity, providing both a platform to build upon and a mirror to reflect its existence in the world. It articulates why an organization exists, what problems it is here to solve, and who it wants to be to each human it touches through its work. While it’s not the first time in history businesses are pondering why they exist and who they are to their customers,1 the current trend based on our research shows that businesses are using purpose to create deeper connections with consumers, do more for the communities with which they work, attract and retain talent, and in the process, are achieving greater results and impact.
Not every organization views purpose as an all-encompassing ideal. Some consider it merely a tool to advertise who they are and what they stand for to capture more market share. Others believe selling quality products at the lowest price point is the only thing that matters to consumers. While we acknowledge instances of successful companies in the market aligned with this thinking, our research shows that what separates purpose-driven businesses from the rest are longevity and authenticity. Companies that lead with purpose and build around it can achieve continued loyalty, consistency, and relevance in the lives of consumers. Those that fail to identify and articulate their purpose may survive in the short term, but over time, people are likely to demand more.
Purpose-driven companies witness higher market share gains and grow on average three times faster than their competitors, all the while achieving higher employee and customer satisfaction.2 Today’s consumers often identify with a brand’s purpose, seeking to connect at a deeper level even as the brand reciprocally aligns with who they are and who they want to be.
In a recent consumer poll, Deloitte asked respondents to share what they cared most about while making decisions about brands (see figure 1). 3
In today’s world, purpose is paramount. The more businesses talk about purpose, the more it runs the risk of becoming just another corporate buzzword. But in its truest form, purpose is different from the rest. How? Purpose answers an all-important question, “Why does a company exist?”—and the answer can serve as the beacon for all organizational decision-making.
Our findings revealed that many consumers today make decisions based on how brands treat their people, how they treat the environment, and how they support the communities in which they operate. When companies align their purpose with doing good, they can build deeper connections with their stakeholders and, in turn, amplify the company’s relevance in their stakeholders’ lives. Increasingly, businesses are harnessing the power and opportunity of aligning their purposes with societal good. In Deloitte Global CEO Punit Renjen’s Success personified report, leaders ranked societal impact as the number one way they measure annual performance—more than financial performance or customer and employee satisfaction.4
In the following section, we discuss and demonstrate the significance of purpose-led business, offering insights into why some companies choose to drive business from purpose and how others learn from such purposeful practices to evolve their own thinking.
Many organizations are successfully driving purpose into their businesses for three main reasons:
The origin of purpose and its overlap with corporate social responsibility (CSR) can make customers, workforces, and partners wary of a business’s motives. While a company’s purpose doesn’t have to directly impact society as a whole, authenticity is paramount.
Many organizations leading with purpose deploy different strategies to ensure they demonstrate authenticity in everything they do. Here’s how you can do the same:
In a world overflowing with options, many brands authentically leading with purpose are discovering new opportunities to deliver value to their customers and the communities in which they operate. By leading with purpose, being authentic in how they tell stories and articulate their impact, focusing on all humans, and imbibing empathy, many of these companies are outpacing their competitors and leaving an impact on everyone they touch.
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