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June, 29, 2023  |    |  

A Guide to Purpose, Vision and Mission

These three statements are distinct, complementary and essential parts of any organisation’s strategy, brand, and culture. Do you know the differences between them? 

Helen Steiger
Senior consultant in our London, UK team, Helen has a background in social and environmental impact, communications and stakeholder engagement.

Purpose, Vision and Mission, when well articulated, drive the business model, cohere operations, and are invaluable touchstones for leaders’ decision-making. They are equally valuable and important, regardless of the organisation’s legal structure and size, and help you to understand why you exist, where you’re going, and how you’re going to get there. 

Key Definitions

Purpose is best defined as the organisation’s reason to exist. It answers the question: why does your organisation exist, beyond generating a profit?

At Junxion, we encourage clients to adopt a social purpose—a commitment to leave a positive impact on people and the planet. We’ve adopted the definition of a social purpose business developed through three years of consultation by our client, the United Way Social Purpose Institute:

A social purpose business is an organisation whose enduring reason for being is to create a better world. It is an engine for good, creating social benefits by the very act of conducting business. Its growth is a positive force in society.

Examples of good purpose statements include:

  • Inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow. Lego
  • Democratize financial services. PayPal
  • Create connections, build community and inspire actions that safeguard the health of the world’s forests. Hemlock Printers

Strong social purpose statements like these point to a challenge or opportunity in society that the organisation has committed itself to solving—or at least to contributing to solutions. Our partners at Green Element have committed themselves ‘to accelerate the just transition to a stable climate,’ a task that will require a great many actors to achieve. They’ll make a significant contribution, and they’ll also seek to partner with and support other organisations that are committed to the same goal.

In this way, successful social purpose statements help leaders to assess or evaluate alliances, collaborations, and even joint ventures they might develop in order to ‘accelerate’ toward their goals.

Vision statements describe the ideal end state when the organisation achieves its ultimate success. It answers the question, how will the world be made better by your work? 

Depending on the size of the organisation, ‘your world’ might be interpreted as a local or professional community, a region or nation, or more literally, the Earth as a whole.

A well-crafted vision statement is:

  • Aspirational, meaning it conveys a grand and lofty goal.
  • Actionable, meaning any individual on your team can assess their contribution to achieving the vision.
  • Clear, meaning it’s free from jargon, so all stakeholders can readily understand it.
  • Concise, meaning it’s short enough to be memorized, so it can be cited consistently.

Examples of good vision statements include:

  • A community where no one is forced to sleep on the street or go hungry and everyone has the dignity that comes with home, health and connection. Cool Aid
  • A world free from cancer. BC Cancer
  • One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education. Teach for America

Note that in each case, these examples describe the end state once the vision is achieved. They don’t use verbs (mission statements do that), instead painting a picture of a ‘world made better.’ Junxion’s vision is ‘an economy remade to serve the common good.’ Wherever we work (and we’ve worked now on five continents!), we see countless entrepreneurs, policymakers, change makers, and concerned citizens pushing in their own ways to align organisational activities, public policy, and more to collective well-being… so our vision feels closer and closer with each passing day.

Mission statements articulate the organisation’s particular contribution(s). They answer the question, what is our organisation uniquely capable of doing, in pursuit of our vision?

Well-crafted mission statements typically name the organisation’s primary audience, key activity, and primary benefit. They convey how the organisation will move forward, each and every day, to achieve its vision. 

Examples of good mission statements include:

  • We serve individuals and families with high-quality, personalized, and culturally responsive support. WJS Canada
  • Make art accessible, affordable, and a viable career for artists. Artfinder
  • To connect hard-to-reach markets to the global economy so that money can move where it’s needed. Crown Agents Bank
  • We build community by developing, owning, and operating vibrant, affordable, and inspiring places to live and work. Catalyst Community Development Society

Here’s where the verbs come in! A good mission statement describes the central activity of the organisation—to serve individuals and families, to make art accessible, to connect hard-to-reach markets to the global economy, and to build community. All organisational activities should be aligned to these activities. By definition, any work the organisation does that is not aligned to this foremost activity is off-mission and should be dropped, freeing up resources and capacity to focus on delivering the mission.

Junxion’s mission is ‘to help leaders build the success stories of the purpose economy.’ We’re currently working hard to reassess and realign all our services to focus wholly on helping leaders—through education and training, envisioning, activation, and promotion of their inspiring stories of world-changing commitment.

Why Is All This So Important? 

The concept of being a values-led, mission-led, purpose-led business that ultimately brings benefits to people and planet, as well as driving profit, is growing in popularity and relevance around the world. In fact, as we confront the climate emergency, accelerating biodiversity loss, and entrenched inequities in society, this shift has become profound and urgent.

Together, Purpose, Vision and Mission help any organisation by:

  1. Providing clarity about its reason for being and its intended impact, for stakeholders inside and outside the organisation.
  2. Conveying a clear and compelling definition of success that aligns organisational strategy, brand, and culture.
  3. Supporting decision-makers’ efforts to align organisational resources and capacity to drive the greatest possible efficiency.

And these benefits have been clearly evidenced: the United Way Social Purpose Institute conducted thorough research, detailing the benefits of a social purpose. These include that a strong and well-communicated social purpose can impact financial performance by up to 17%, whilst 73% of business leaders agree that a social purpose helps their company navigate today’s turbulent environment. 

It’s More Than Just Words On a Page

Developing Purpose, Vision and Mission statements is crucial, but these statements need to be ‘lived’ in order for them to have their maximum impact. Embedding your Purpose, Vision and Mission in strategic objectives and everyday actions, in branding to engage all your stakeholders, and in your organisational culture to engage all your employees and contractors are all vital to fully realise the benefits, and ensure these statements are not just words on a page.

Ready to define and embed your purpose, vision and mission? This is a holistic approach to strategy design and implementation that may seem ambitious, even audacious in your context. We’re here to help you stride forward. Get in touch to find out how.