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Why purpose must be owned by the C-suite and Board

Purpose drives culture and provides a clear framework for decision-making: something that is more important for C-suite and Boards than ever before.

No longer can an organisation rely on growing profits and revenue as its sole key performance indicator (KPI) for success. As Larry Fink, chairman and CEO of BlackRock Inc, notes:

“The public expectations of your company have never been greater… Every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Without a sense of purpose, no company, either public or private, can achieve its full potential.”

Purpose-led companies prosper

According to McKinsey’s The Growth Triple Play report, executives from across the globe who prioritise investments and capabilities in three elements — creativity, analytics, and purpose — are seeing “at least two times the growth of peers who don’t invest in all three in tandem”.

The business case for purpose is strong. However, for many companies, that corporate purpose often lives filed away on a piece of paper, in a presentation or on the organisation’s website with little relevance to what happens in the day-to-day business. Even if you’ve already worked with a brand purpose agency, it’s important to consider if the outcomes are actually being put into practice.

Putting purpose-driven business models into practice – at every level

True purpose-led transformation is achieved by owning the purpose and internal brand strategy at the very top, ensuring it is deeply embedded and owned at all levels.

The onus is on the C-suite and Board to filter the organisation’s purpose throughout the business. To do so effectively, this includes consideration of:

1. Your business strategy
As a first step, all business planning should be informed by, and should help prove, the commitment the organisation has made to its purpose. This includes decisions made about funding and resources, and whether to remove, change or update certain elements within your organisation that do not align to your purpose (often a tough call). It also means that your executive team must truly understand the value of purpose and their role in delivering on it – that it is their responsibility, and that of the Board, to drive it forward across the organisation.

2. What you do/make/sell
This involves analysing your product and service offering to make sure the way you manufacture or the services that you provide are aligned to your ‘why’. It also looks at your methods of doing business – the suppliers you work with and the partnerships you have in place, to ensure those working relationships support what your business is striving for.

3. What you say and how you say it
How you present yourself to the world is crucial. To ensure that your communication connects customers and stakeholders with your purpose, you need to consider all forms of communication across the brand. This includes your overarching brand strategy or business identity, the messages and channels that you use internally and externally, and your tone of voice.

4. How you behave
The type of behaviours that your business encourages, supports, and rewards among your staff and within your culture are key. To ensure employees understand and feel connected to your purpose, it’s best to review how your recruitment programs, training, KPIs and promotions are set up. At a business level, you need to look at how the business operates, what your environmental and social governance plans are, how you are going to be more inclusive, and how you are going to support the communities you operate in.

Being a purpose-led C-suite or Board will help to drive growth, ensure alignment, and protect the organisation. Take for example First State Super, which worked closely with Brand Council at the Board and executive level in developing its new brand, internal culture realignment, behaviour change program and inculcation.

How to implement purpose at every level

Be sure to keep purpose authentic and simple, and ensure that it is owned and implemented by all individuals within the organisation. Make sure it is rewarded and celebrated, measured and reported on, and that it is regularly shared with internal and external stakeholders.

Sound difficult? Not with the right approach and measurement. At Brand Council we’ve been developing corporate purpose, internal brand strategy and putting purpose into practice for more than 16 years. If you’re looking for brand purpose consultancy, we’d be happy to share key insights to help you achieve your purpose-led transformation.