Combining profit and social purpose

Around nine in ten current CEOs and future business leaders believe businesses should have a social purpose, according to new research from Coca Cola Enterprises (CCE).

But while 86% of current leaders think businesses are already putting this into practice, just a fifth of the younger generation agrees they are doing so – showing a clear gap between the views of today’s CEOs and the next generation.

These results are part of a new study published by CCE, the maker of Coke, in partnership with Cranfield’s Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility and The Financial Times’ FT Remark (FT).

The study, ‘Combining Profit and Purpose’ is based on the views of 50 CEOs and almost 150 MBA and MSc students and recent graduates across Europe.

The research indicates that both current and future leaders agree that a company’s profit and the ability to provide shareholder value are the best barometers of business success today. However, the groups disagree on how that may change in the future.

While the overwhelming majority of current CEOs feel that profitability and shareholder value will remain key in the future (94% and 88%, respectively), the findings suggest future leaders have higher expectations of the role business should play, claiming that societal and environmental impact (80%), innovation (61%) and development of future talent (57%) will be more important indicators of business success in the years to come.

The two groups also differ in opinion about the barriers to businesses combining social purpose with profit. Two-thirds of CEOs (66%) view external factors such as government and regulation as the main barrier, while the majority of future leaders cite internal factors, such as current management attitudes (55%).

Professor David Grayson, director of the Doughty Centre, comments: “While it’s not surprising to learn that social purpose is seen as a priority for business, the big challenge is to ensure more business leaders define the real purpose of their business, and identify how they are going to achieve that purpose. By developing clearly defined strategies and identifying new, disruptive approaches now, businesses can better ensure success and relevance in the future.”

Michael Bennett, managing director of packaging communications experts Pelican commented: “This is an interesting piece of research, highlighting the changing expectations the next generation has of business.

“Visionary organisations are already taking steps to ensure they balance the need to generate profit and value with their environmental responsibilities.”

Pelican Communications are specialists in the environmentfood and drinkoutdoor and leisure and packaging sectors and offer a range of services such as media relations, brand management, event management and people developmentContact us for marketing and communications expertise.