Why your business needs a purpose

By Pelican Consultant Emma Scott

More than ever, consumers want to engage with companies that do good and businesses are, in turn, recognising the commercial and competitive edge to be gained from having a clear purpose beyond profit.

In a survey conducted by PWC, 79% of business leaders said they believe an organisation’s purpose is central to business success, but the vast majority of employees said they were disengaged from work, with only 33% drawing real meaning from their employer’s purpose.

So what is ‘purpose’ in this context, and how do you decide what yours should be?

What is purpose?

At a basic level, purpose is what an organisation aspires to be and do. But before we delve into the definition of purpose, it’s important to understand how purpose differs from a mission statement, because it’s easy to confuse the two.

A mission statement outlines what a business does, which is why it’s often confused with a purpose statement, but a mission statement’s focus is internal. It’s intended to motivate and provide direction for employees and management.

A purpose statement has a much more outward focus. It outlines what you’re doing for the wider world; your customers, your community, the environment.

Why does purpose matter?

In short, because it matters to your customers. Fresh consumer data shows customers view purpose-driven brands as being more caring and, as a result, are more loyal to them.

But it’s also important in attracting and retaining staff. According to the PwC study, millennials who strongly connect with the purpose of their organisation are 5.3 times more likely to stay. 

Who’s getting it right? 

Rubies in the Rubble is a great example of a business with real purpose. Shocked by the amount of fruit and veg rejected on aesthetic grounds, founder Jenny began rescuing produce from New Covent Garden market and experimenting in the kitchen with childhood recipes.

In 2012, she started Rubies in the Rubble. Its purpose? “To provide a solution to food surplus by creating food products people can enjoy and inspire them to value food as a precious resource.”

Today, Rubies in the Rubble is a pioneering voice in food sustainability with an award-winning range of condiments stocked nationwide. In 2019 it saved 126,195 kg of surplus fruit and veg and reported 36% revenue growth. It is now working towards becoming a certified B-Corp.

Creating and communicating your purpose

The benefits of having a clear purpose are wide-ranging and far-reaching but ultimately you will see it reflected in your bottom line. Here are some tips when setting out your purpose.

  • Do your research. Speak to customers and staff. Examine the trends affecting the political, economic, social and technological context in which you operate. This will help ensure your purpose has relevance in the real world.
  • Be realistic. When purpose is too far removed from where an organisation’s current culture is, it comes across as inauthentic. The wider the gap between your stated purpose and what your business actually values, the higher the risk of customers and staff becoming disengaged.
  • Don’t set an end date. Your purpose is not something that should expire on a certain date to be replaced with a new one, but rather an ongoing source of motivation. Take NASA’s: “Reach for new heights and reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind”. This purpose drives every mission, not just the next five or 10.

Once you have a clear idea of what your purpose is, you need to distil it into a powerful purpose statement; a single sentence that encapsulates your company’s reason to exist, beyond just making a profit.

A good purpose statement should use plain-language that’s simple for employees, customers and stakeholders to understand. This is easier said than done and something the experts at Pelican can help with.

Examples of powerful purpose statements.

Successful purpose statements connect with people on an emotional rather than just a commercial level.

  • HP: To foster the human capacity to innovate and progress.
  • Ella’s Kitchen: To create healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.
  • Kellogg food company: Nourishing families so they can flourish and thrive.
  • Insurance company IAG: To help people manage risk and recover from the hardship of unexpected loss.

These statements don’t use phrases like “the best”, “the fastest-growing”, or “most innovative”.

Purpose statements are about the connection between what a company does and the benefit it wants to deliver to people’s lives.

If there’s a gulf between what you’re saying and what you’re doing, get in touch today to see how we can help you bridge the gap.

Pelican Communications is a specialist in the environment & CSRfoodpackaging & logistics and trade association sectors and offers a range of services such as strategydesigncontent creationpublic relations and people developmentContact us for marketing and communications expertise.

Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash

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