What is the dent you want to put in the universe? It’s a great question and one we enjoy throwing out there in our engagements with social ventures. Increasingly we use the same question with mainstream companies, too, as we help them navigate their way to the next economy. It leads to naming a purpose—the reason a business exists, beyond merely making money.
A clear, strong purpose becomes your North Star—defining business lines you develop or don’t, partnerships you make or eschew, and the structures, management systems and tools you use to measure progress.
Getting this right is vital to our transition to a regenerative economy––one that nurtures people and planet. And so at Junxion we are delighted to be supporting the Measuring Purpose conference taking place on 29 October. If you haven’t done so already, do sign up––it will be valuable for everyone from practitioners of corporate social responsibility (CSR) to social entrepreneurs, and people who are simply seeking more meaning in their work.
Here are the three key themes and a bonus one we and others will be exploring on the day.
The purpose of business is changing
The purpose of business is changing from shareholder wealth to stakeholder wellbeing. Last year the influential group of 200 large companies, the Business Roundtable, redefined the purpose of a corporation along these lines. This significant shift echoed calls from Larry Fink, CEO of Blackrock, the largest investment firm in the world, who has been calling on companies to adopt a social purpose. And on the back of that announcement by the Business Roundtable, the B Corporation movement took out full page ads in the business press around the world pointing out that the B Corp process has been calling for purpose to be at the heart of a business for over a dozen years already.
One of the requirements for being a Certified B Corp is to legally change your business constitution to embed the idea of purpose. In Italy, and in more than 30 state legislatures in the USA as well as British Columbia in Canada, you can now be a Benefit Corporation. And there are campaigns underway in other countries such as the UK to amend corporate law. So intellectually, and increasingly legally too, the purpose of business is evolving to take a view that considers social and environmental considerations as well as financial ones.
We’re at a turning point now for which many grassroots organizers and networks of sustainable businesses have been advocating for years. Consider Social Venture Circle, Common Future, and so many others. At Measuring Purpose, we’ll talk about how leaders should respond, now that the change is here.
You need the right governance and culture to make purpose stick
Another theme we will hear is that governance and culture are key to delivering on your company purpose. Any good purpose statement has to be more than fine wordsmithing. It has to be authentic and compelling and move people to act differently. There is real transformative power in a fitting purpose statement, and it demands leaders show up, own it and incentivise behaviours and actions that make it come to life.
Following a piece on how leaders can tackle shifting cultures from author Dr John Izzo, esteemed storyteller and event curator Lisa Shufro is going to be addressing how companies need to set goals that reflect their purpose. Without the right structures and the right incentives, a purpose statement remains just a few carefully chosen words.
Measure what matters and measure it well
As Kevin Starr of Mulago Foundation said ten years ago with respect to the charities he funds: know your mission; know what to measure, and measure it well. There are a number of tools out there you can use to measure how well you are delivering on your purpose. At Junxion we are advocates for the B Corp movement and will be speaking about using B Corp’s B Impact Assessment to that end. And we will be running a workshop on how your business can become a B Corp too.
Other measurement tools will be discussed including Dr Cindy Lin’s purpose measurement tool specially designed for small businesses. And Bob Willard will be sharing his 3-in-1 Sustainability Assessment toolkit, where he distils decades of experience into one easy-to-use tool. Brad Sparks of Accounting for Sustainability (A4S) will connect the dots between purpose and finance and illustrate how to evaluate purpose in dollars and cents.
And a bonus theme…
Impact is the difference in outcome you make for a stakeholder. A difference that is additive and would not have happened were it not for your efforts. And the bonus theme is the opportunity for some assessment of how much of a difference we might make as individuals. My business partner Mike Rowlands will be helping us all to reflect on our personal purpose. How can we as changemakers work to be at our most effective? Where are we called to serve? How might that shape our sense of self?
A rich day awaits! I hope you will join us. As the pandemic has taught us, none of us is well until all of us are well. And the earth needs all the purposeful friends it can get.
Adam Garfunkel is a co-owner of Junxion Strategy, a B Leader and ambassador for the B Corp movement. He has spent 25 years helping companies articulate their social purpose and measure and report on the difference they are making.