How purpose led businesses are achieving higher growth

I’ve just finished reading Paul Polman and Andrew Winston’s book: ‘Net Positive: How courageous companies thrive by giving more than they take’ (2021). 

If you aren’t convinced why you need to be focusing on staff wellbeing, community and the planet then I suggest you get yourself a copy. 

Quoting from the book ‘profits should not come from creating the world’s problems, but from solving them’. Over the many years, Unilever learned that whenever a focus on purpose was lacking, the company’s performance suffered. 

Those companies focusing on people, planet and community (i.e. the triple bottom line) are experiencing higher growth and profit through:

  • Loyal customers– one in three consumers have stopped buying certain products or brands because they are worried about the environmental and ethical impact. 50% of consumers will pay more for sustainable products and services which builds corporate reputation and brands. 84% of consumers globally say they try to shop from companies that support causes they care about;
  • Attracting the best talent – 64% of millennials say they wouldn’t work for a company that doesn’t have strong and environmental commitments;
  • Retains staff – a business which places purpose at its centre and looks after its employees tend to experience higher levels of staff satisfaction and engagement and retention of staff. Engaged organisations see 17% more productivity, 20% increase in sales, 21% higher profitability (Gallup workplace study);
  • Securing external finance – more and more public service contracts and investors are asking for criteria around sustainability;
  • More profit – studies show that there is a direct correlation between sustainable practices, share prices, and business performance. Bank of America found that companies with a better Environment Social Governance record than their peers produced higher three-year returns, were more likely to become high-quality stocks, were less likely to have large price declines, and were less likely to go bankrupt;
  • The power of the B Corp – those companies who have gone through the B Corp accreditation process are experiencing exponential growth – they are outperforming the market 15 to one, experiencing higher market share, and are growing, on average, three times faster than their competition;
  • People want business to step up – people want businesses to take the lead, working with government on serious issues like workforce opportunity, diversity, inequality, climate and sustainable, responsible supply chains. “We simply won’t be here if we don’t take care of the very things that allow us to exist”. “Businesses have a fundamental responsibility to move to net positive action as businesses cannot be a bystander in a system that gives it life”;
  • More resilience  – those companies focusing on the triple bottom line and helping long-term sustainability are the leaders and businesses we need in the future;
  • Having a purpose is critical for survival – 79% of business leaders recently surveyed by PwC believing that a company’s purpose is central to business success.

Businesses need to consider moving towards being net positive: 

 “A net positive business is a business that improves well-being for everyone it impacts and at all scales – every product, every operation, every region and country, and for every stakeholder. Including employees, suppliers, communities, consumers, and even future generations and the planet itself”. 

The book calls for a new type of business leader; one with courage to assume responsibility for your total societal impacts, well beyond your own operations. “A net positive approach prepares businesses to be competitive today, but more important, positions you well to be among the winning companies and industries of the future. Being a leader is a privileged position and there is nothing more gratifying than leveraging it to serve others and creating a better world for all. After all, the only impossible journey is the one you never begin”.

The book goes on to say “the world needs more courageous leaders willing to commit their organisations to deep change and serving the world”. 

The ultimate question is: Is the world better off because your business is in it?

If you are thinking, that’s great but how do I begin?

Book onto ‘Business as a Power For Good’ taking place on Thursday 24 March 2022 – an event aimed at inspiring the Lancashire business community to step up, accelerate and help lead us toward a thriving Lancashire: BUSINESS AS A POWER FOR GOOD Tickets, The Wellbeing Farm, Bolton | TryBooking United Kingdom

Celia Gaze

Founder & Managing Director

The Wellbeing Farm

22 Feb 2022