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So you understand the power of purpose and want to harness it for your organization. You’re heading in the right direction. Against a backdrop of global uncertainty, questions around the responsibility companies have to their employees, society and the world at large are now more urgent than ever.

It’s hardly surprising that business leaders are responding to calls from a range of stakeholders to define their organization’s role, and indeed its purpose. This was borne out unequivocally by our recent CEO Purpose report, with 25% of CEOs stating they are now purpose-driven and nearly 60% saying they are developing or about to start developing a purpose statement.

We’ve seen the power of purpose; we know it works. But it’s not an easy fix and the road ahead can seem daunting. That’s why we developed our new Purpose Persona tool. It is designed to help you understand where you are on your purpose journey and offer a roadmap for where you need to be.

Why business is pivoting to purpose

As ESG and sustainability continue to rise up the agenda, top CEOs and senior business leaders are recognizing the capacity of purpose to drive growth today and in the future. In the most recent edition of his annual letter to CEOs, BlackRock Chief Executive Larry Fink wrote that, ‘over the course of 2020, we have seen how purposeful companies […] have outperformed their peers’. Echoing that sentiment, our own CEO Purpose Report showed that 83% of CEOs agree purpose-driven companies are better at navigating a sustainable world than those that are purely profit driven.

The benefits of developing a purpose for your company are impossible to ignore, and the risks of inaction are clear. In 2021, purpose-driven organizations outperformed their competitors, and the gap is only going to increase. Those who cannot answer the question ‘what is your meaningful role in the world?’ will soon be left behind.

Where to begin with your purpose

What should you be aware of before embarking on this journey? Our experience developing purpose statements for a wide range of organizations tells us that there are a few things you need to know before you get started:

First, a purpose isn’t just for Christmas. It’s not a marketing tool that you can tack on to your existing corporate identity and expect to magically drive growth. A successful purpose statement is well thought through, authentic and unique to the individual organization.

It needs to engage a wide range of stakeholders, both internally and externally. It’s not enough to engage senior leaders alone; you need to inspire people at every level of the business. After recently helping Tata Consultancy Services define its purpose — ‘Building on Belief’ — we immediately saw the effect it had on their people. Even their families were inspired, with the child of one employee sharing their interpretation of the new purpose: a colorful crayon drawing that captured what ‘Building on Belief’ meant to them.

Consider stress testing a potential purpose by gathering employee insights and seeing how it lands with them. At Brandpie, we use VYTALS, a real-time online crowdsourcing solution that brings employees together to capture their opinions and ideas in a safe and anonymous environment.

It’s essential that you also consider the wider world and the role your organization plays within it. Ask yourself, what does the world need, and how do we help fulfill that need? Engaging your own people is a great start, but if your purpose is completely inward facing, it will fall flat on its face.

A purpose needs to have ‘stretch.’ In other words, it should speak both to your organization today and what it will be in five years’ time. This balancing act between authenticity and ambition sits at the heart of any successful purpose statement, and it requires you to really understand who you are as an organization. That’s why, when developing a company’s purpose, we always engage the widest possible range of stakeholders to get the clearest picture of who they are.

And finally, you need the backing of senior leaders. It isn’t enough for the C-suite to simply authorize the project, they must believe in it too. Back in 2012, we helped a large, established, multinational organization become the world’s first purpose-driven professional services firm. And it was only because the senior leadership truly comprehended the value of a successful purpose that its full potential could be realized: 8% CAGR over 8 years, 130,000 new hires and +6% colleague engagement.

Use purpose as an opportunity

The key to developing a genuinely successful purpose is authenticity. You cannot contrive something that looks good on paper but bears no actual relation to your organization and the people that make it up.

In fact, your purpose already exists, but the answer may be buried deep within your business. We often find purpose is a combination of looking back to understand the founders' ambitions, and looking forward to reimagine what they would say today. By engaging with senior leaders and employees on the ground, we can help you define it and articulate it in a way that galvanizes your people, inspires your clients, creates long-term value, and drives resilient, sustainable growth.

Max Bhugra-Schmid


Interested in defining your purpose?

Having spent the last 10 years defining and activating corporate purpose for Fortune 1000 organizations, we can help you discover yours.

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