How Marketers Can Connect Profit and Purpose

It takes time for a big idea to make its way into business practice. Six years ago, Harvard’s Michael Porter and FSG’s Mark Kramer made the bold statement that shared value —the idea that the purpose of a company is to achieve both shareholder profit and social purpose — 

 

To  reinvent capitalism.

 

They encouraged companies to go beyond CSR (corporate social responsibility) and integrate social impact into companies’ competitive strategy. And, Nathaniel Foote and Russ Eisenstat proposed 

 

“ A better way to manage in the 21st century.

 

They found “higher-ambition” leaders achieved superior performance by doing well and doing good. For the last six years, they have worked with a group of top marketing executives and business leaders in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area from companies large and small. Each year they assess the issues that are most top-of-mind. From digital platforms to customer experience to crisis management, these priorities have been a bellwether for what would soon dominate boardroom discussions and headline business publications.

This year the issue of profit and propose came to the fore, echoing the earlier manifestos. To understand the connections and applications, interviews with over 20 CMOs and CEOs, finding a remarkably similar pattern across a highly diverse set of companies. To find widespread agreement that having great products and services and being a “good corporate citizen” are table stakes in a world of empowered citizens and consumers.

Melissa Waters, CMO of Lyft, says,

Any customer these days is asking for transparency on what a company stands for and why they operate. But you can’t exist just to make the world a better place.

Purpose today goes well beyond corporate social responsibility. According to Alicia Tillman, CMO of SAP,

Purpose can’t be viewed as a department or initiative. It must be woven into a company’s operational fabric. Purpose is a lodestar guiding and inspiring everyone to create economic and societal value together.”

In a sense, purpose is following the path that digital has taken in the enterprise.


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