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What Does a Purpose-Led Organisation Look Like?

Embracing a corporate purpose and committing to being a purpose-led brand is about using your brand purpose to align what you do across every facet of the organisation. It is about committing to removing or changing what isn’t aligned, continuing to deliver what is aligned, and adding new areas that when combined deliver maximum results and value into the future.

Having a clear idea of what lies at the heart and soul of a business ensures focus and clarity and sets the organisation up for the future. Understanding who a business is, why it operates the way it does and what its mission is not only gives customers and stakeholders a clear idea of who you are as an organisation but also sets the tone internally.

So, what is a purpose-led business, and what does a purpose-led brand/organisation look like? In this article, we break down what it means for an organisation to be purpose-driven, and the components that demonstrate putting purpose into practice.

 

Table of Contents:

  • What does purpose-led mean?
  • What is a purpose-led business?
  • Hallmarks of a purpose-driven organisation
  • Authenticity
  • Accountability
  • Putting purpose into practice
  • Strategic Decision Making
  • How Brand Council helps organisations put purpose into practice

 

What Does Purpose-led Mean?

Purpose-led organisations have taken the time to develop and commit to a clear and long-term purpose for the organisation. The corporate purpose should be clear, motivating and clearly state the organisations’ purpose – beyond making money.

A corporate purpose is owned by the C-Suite and supported by board.  Purpose-driven organisations can be for-profit or NFP and they have clarity around who they are, and the value and role they provide to all their stakeholders.

Embracing a corporate purpose requires a commitment to align what you do across every facet of the business. A purpose-led organisation will identify and prioritise their purpose and make it the focal point of why they exist. This does not mean taking the focus off profit, quite the opposite, as purpose helps to drive profit, and a profitable organisation can better support sustainability and stakeholders.

“Profits are in no way inconsistent with purpose – in fact, profits and purpose are inextricably linked. Profits are essential if a company is to effectively serve all of its stakeholders – not only shareholders, but also employees, customers, and communities. Similarly, when a company truly understands and expresses its purpose, it functions with the focus and strategic discipline that drives long-term profitability.” BlackRock 2020

 

What is a Purpose-led Business?

Being a purpose-led brand is hard work and requires that you commit to it, and align all aspects of the business and strategy to that purpose – what you do, how you do it, who you do it for, the quality and way in which you produce the products and services you deliver.

Purpose-led businesses aim to create deeper connections with stakeholders (staff, consumers, partners, planet, customers) and do more for their surrounding communities, which in turn helps them to yield even better results and achieve a larger impact for all stakeholders.

Some real-world purpose-led brands include Aruma (which focuses on breaking the disability category convention; they focus on human rights, the individual and ensuring they provide the very best tailored products and services for people with disabilities) and Nippon Paint Holdings, a global holding company with a global corporate purpose of “Enriching our living world through the power of Science + Imagination”. This global corporate purpose unites and inspires growth across the diverse global businesses and cultures.

 

Hallmarks of a Purpose-driven Organisation

A purpose-driven company is one that has a clear role and vision for who they are and what they want to achieve for their stakeholders and the world.  That said, purpose-driven companies are not necessarily not-for-profit — it’s just that profits aren’t the only guiding agenda.

Take a deeper look at Nippon Paint Holdings: they balance their commitment to shareholder returns with a commitment to sustainability, community and the future – by developing and supplying innovative paint and coating products that respond to changes in society and the environment e.g. paint that reduces the temperature of buildings, coatings that help ships move through the ocean more efficiently, and coatings that reduce the adherence of germs to a surface. It’s clear to see that their actions are guided by a desire to have a positive impact on all stakeholders.

To drive home this point, here are some key hallmarks of purpose-driven companies:

Authenticity

An authentic corporate purpose has been unearthed from within and is genuine and future focused. An authentically purpose-led brand will recognise that the organisations actions go far beyond symbolism. They will link their purpose to measurements across all aspects of the business from products and services to stakeholder relationships, staff engagement and outcomes. If a brand is truly authentic, it will show the measurable, real impact it is having.

This will help a brand gain a “trusted status” with stakeholders, enabling increased growth for the business.

As an example, the Leukaemia Foundation consistently posts reports on its efforts toward reducing and supporting the number of people affected by blood cancer. These free-to-download reports provide in-depth and well-documented data that clearly showcase their commitment to supporting the blood cancer community.

Accountability

Authentic purpose-driven businesses are accountable for everything they do by being transparent with their actions. This way, the brand can build trust and loyalty with all stakeholders.

When a company knows what its purpose and values are, it is easier to see when they are holding themselves accountable as they will be clearly working towards their purpose authentically and consistently.

Open communication will also lead to more accountability, as you are able to share any successes, failures, challenges and triumphs with customers, employees, partners and other stakeholders. This helps build credibility and respect inside and out.

As an example of accountability in action, shoe designer TOMS is well known globally for its “One for One” model where they pledge to donate a pair of shoes for each purchase – donating more than 50 million shoes. TOMS have updated their model and now showcase their accountability by providing reports and impact assessments detailing their new ‘giving’ model. As a B-Corp they are transparent about their business, their giving model (and funds) and how they provide sustainable impact, illustrating their commitment to accountability.

Putting Purpose into Practice

We believe in a purpose-led brand strategy approach, and that purpose is more than words on a screen. To achieve measurable value, you need to put it into practice. 

Putting purpose into practice is about using your purpose to align what you do across every single part of your organisation. To achieve the desired impact of a corporate purpose, executive team ownership and support is essential.

The corporate purpose should help guide decisions and be supported, activated, and brought to life in every part of the business, from what you say and do, to how you behave, the products or services you deliver to the world, the staff and structure, the business practices, ESG, financial models, even processes and systems, and of course the culture. 

Anyone engaging with the organisation (staff, stakeholders, partners, customers or community), should have a strong sense of who you are, and how you are genuinely living your purpose. They should feel it in every interaction and experience they have with you.

Many organisations develop a strong and motivating purpose, but they don’t realise its potential or reap the rewards, because they forget this step.

Putting purpose into practice will look different for every organisation, but ultimately a customer or stakeholder should be able to feel who you are as an organisation with every interaction they have with you.

Strategic Decision Making

In a purpose-led organisation the strategic decision-making process has the purpose at the core, and considers key ambition, long and short-term business objectives and how they impact all stakeholders, the markets, environment, staff, communities, shareholders, and the environment.

If a company’s purpose includes support of local communities, then fair-trade policies will be essential and a strategic decision could be to seek out and intentionally partner with suppliers who adhere or improve upon fair labour practices, or source Fair Trade-certified ingredients and support fair compensation and work practices for all workers.

A decision-making strategy must consider who will be affected and, again, whether this will help the overall purpose of the brand.

 

How Brand Council Helps Organisations put Purpose into Practice

For the last 17 years, Brand Council has been guiding teams in developing their purpose strategy. As Australia’s most experienced team when it comes to purpose-led transformation, we are able to get tangible results by applying a highly engaging and multi-disciplinary approach to our purpose and strategy work. We’ve helped big brands like DuluxGroup create a global purpose that aligns with all the brands they own (Yates, Selleys, B&D Dulux etc.), Workwear Group achieved a 55% increase in sales and an overall 80% growth (for their Hard Yakka brand), and local franchise group Kwik Kopy Australia launch nationwide purpose and communications campaign that have been widely successful.

Brand Council considers all aspects of a business, working with it to understand what the organisation’s purpose is so it can live and breathe its purpose in an authentic way.

We can help you create alignment, from what the organisation does, to what it says, how it behaves, and ultimately what it stands for. We do this by completing diagnostic studies on your company as a whole and then preparing a clear plan to achieve purpose-driven strategy, culture and behaviour.

Anyone engaging with your purpose-led brand should have a strong sense of who you are and how you are genuinely living your brand purpose, so get in touch today to find out how we can help your business.