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January 24, 2020 | 4-minute read (669 words)
By Ruby Sahiwal
Operating a purpose-driven business can have myriad benefits, from boosting sales to keeping employees happy. If you’re wondering how leaders keep purpose at top of mind, check out what the following CEOs have said about the topic.
Unilever CEO Alan Jope
Jope noted that 28 of Unilever’s brands have taken on a purpose-led mission, and that those brands are growing “much faster” than the rest of the company’s portfolio, so in addition to being good for the company, they’re also good for the world.
“Business can be a force for good in the world,” Jope told Bloomberg. “At a time when trust is breaking down in society, it’s very important that any promises that our brand or other brands make are backed up by real action that we’re taking in the world and the community,” he said. In fact, he noted the company may eventually divest brands that don’t have a positive impact on society.
Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier
Frazier notes that the pharmaceutical firm has a strong commitment to helping society. “While a fundamental responsibility of business leaders is to create value for shareholders, I think businesses also exist to deliver value to society,” he told the Harvard Business Review.
“Merck has existed for 126 years; its individual shareholders have turned over countless times,” he said. “But our salient purpose in the world is to deliver medically important vaccines and medicines that make a huge difference for humanity. The revenue and shareholder value we create are an imperfect proxy for the value we create for patients and society.”
Salesforce Co-CEO Marc Benioff
Benioff emphasizes how CEOs should use their businesses to do more for the world. “I try to model for other CEOs how to actually use their business as a platform for change, how to improve the state of the world with their companies,” he told Yahoo Finance. He suggests, for instance, that CEOs can adopt local public schools and provide support to them, which has provided dramatic results in the schools that Salesforce has worked with, in terms of test scores and results.
“You have to ask yourself what are your values? What’s the most important thing to you, do you know as a CEO? Is it trust? Is it equality? Is it sustainability?” He challenges all leaders to ask themselves these questions and take a look at the answers.
BlackRock CEO Larry Fink
Fink sent a letter to his fellow CEOs emphasizing the importance of leading with goals that help the community. “A company cannot achieve long-term profits without embracing purpose and considering the needs of a broad range of stakeholders,” he wrote. “Ultimately, purpose is the engine of long-term profitability.”
Fink also warned other business leaders that ignoring purpose will ultimately cost them significant dollars. “Over time, companies and countries that do not respond to stakeholders and address sustainability risks will encounter growing skepticism from the markets, and in turn, a higher cost of capital,” Fink said. “Companies and countries that champion transparency and demonstrate their responsiveness to stakeholders, by contrast, will attract investment more effectively, including higher-quality, more patient capital.”
Orbia CEO Daniel Martínez-Valle
“We shouldn’t be a company defined by what we make but by what problems we solved in the world,” Martínez-Valle said about the business. He notes that it’s essential to engage with employees to ensure that the firm’s purpose moves forward, because staff members are helping execute the company’s mission.
“When you focus solely on the products you make or the services you offer, it is easy to forget that you are part of a larger, global community, and everything you do makes an impact,” he noted. “By framing our company’s purpose on the problems that we solve, we are not only reminding ourselves of the role we play in the world but are also holding ourselves accountable to making sure our impact is positive and changes lives for the better.”