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Why purpose matters


purpose matters

I’ve always considered myself a capitalist. At the same time, I believe capitalism needed to evolve from the version that existed in the 19th and 20th centuries to one reimagined for the 21st century, which focuses on long-term value creation for business and society. This evolution is aligned with a growing recognition by businesses themselves that they must create value for everyone, not just for their shareholders, and deploy their resources to help solve complex global problems, such as climate change, income inequality, biodiversity loss and more.


Within this context, academics and business and industry leaders have been pushing to redefine the role of business in society. They suggest that if companies focus on a purpose beyond just making money, it could lead to better outcomes for everyone. The British Academy, a renowned institution, has proposed an approach for businesses to be purposeful and profitable simultaneously. Similarly, the Canadian Purpose Economy Project, a leading initiative, has made recommendations for building a social purpose ecosystem in Canada.


Another area—one that I’m personally interested in—explores how companies can situate their social purpose strategy and reporting in the UN Sustainable Development Goals framework. This would reduce the need to create new implementation or measurement standards as the SDGs provide detailed guidance on critical societal challenges and what’s required to address them. If nothing else, the SDGs are a good starting point for businesses venturing into the social purpose and sustainability ecosystems for the first time.


So, in my opinion, purpose matters because complex, global societal challenges won’t solve themselves. They are also too big for any one entity to tackle alone. Purpose-driven brands can be the conveners of change, partnering with governments and communities to facilitate actions that benefit business and society equally.

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