Businesses that identify an overriding purpose often achieve far more than those pursuing profit alone. Take a closer look at some of those leading the way.
All it takes is a few short, simple words to give your business the backbone it needs to grow and thrive. A business that can identify an overriding purpose, and then use that purpose to drive everything it does, can achieve far more than it could by pursuing profit alone. A purpose isn’t just an aim: it is both a selling point and a strategy, as well as a way to make a difference and leave a lasting legacy.
Here are eight examples of powerful businesses driven by purpose.
“With great courage, integrity and love,” reads the higher purpose statement of Whole Foods, the United States’ first certified organic grocer, “we embrace our responsibility to co-create a world where each of us, our communities and our planet can flourish.” To this end, the multibillion dollar business donates over 5 per cent of its annual net profits to charitable causes and is involved in efforts to safeguard the environment, foster fair trade in its supply chains, improve food safety and ensure the humane treatment of animals.
Low-cost air carrier Southwest Airlines believes in “democratizing the skies” and this goes further than a marketing strategy to offer the cheapest fares. The airline, the world’s largest low-cost carrier, is also a leading corporate citizen taking a triple-bottom-line approach while being committed to transparency and responsible business practices. Southwest makes charitable donations of over $US11 million in combined value (cash and sponsored travel) each year, while maintaining its position as an industry leader in fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas reductions.
For every pair of glasses purchased, Warby Parker donates another pair to non-profit organisation VisionSpring, which provides glasses to people in developing countries. This farsighted idea stems from its goal to offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price – not just for its customers, but for the less fortunate too.
A commitment to sustainability is sewn into the very fabric of clothing company Patagonia. In addition to supporting numerous environmental initiatives and remaining transparent about their sourcing and production processes, the company has gone so far as to tell its customers not to buy its products, launching the Common Threads Partnership program to encourage people to repair, reuse or recycle instead.
With so many companies pledging their commitment to customers or stakeholders, it comes as a surprise to learn that storage solution retailer The Container Store’s core purpose is to put its employees first. The company pays 50 to 100 per cent above the industry average and provides 240 hours of training compared to the measly mean of seven. During the 2008–2009 recession, not a single employee was let go, and this bold investment has since paid dividends in increased loyalty and productivity.
It makes perfect sense that Life is Good feels optimistic. Starting with a $200 investment in 1989, the apparel and accessories company has since grown into a $US100 million business. Guiding it the entire way has been the goal of helping spread that optimism to others. The company donates 10 per cent of its net profits to children in need, in addition to raising even more money through events such as the Life is Good music festival.
There is far more purpose behind technology giant Google than what is suggested by its unofficial slogan, “Don’t be evil”. From its outset, its aim has been to “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. Google provides its employees with exceptional work environments and flexible working arrangements to drive the experimentation needed to achieve this purpose.
In the 1890s, Unilever founder William Lever set the company’s purpose as “making cleanliness commonplace”. In 2010, the consumer goods giant further honed this purpose to better respond to a world that is “starting to exceed its capacity”. Under this revised purpose of “making sustainable living commonplace”, Unilever has three targets to measure its progress against: improving the health and wellbeing of one billion people, reducing negative environmental impact and sourcing raw materials in a sustainable way while enhancing livelihood.