The coronavirus crisis represents one of the greatest challenges of our lives. At the time of writing 1,158,825 people have died from the virus. It’s scary, tragic and horrible.
At the same we have seen the inspirational growth of the Black Lives Matter movement. This global human rights campaign is compelling us all to fight racism within ourselves our companies, charities and society.
If you take these two enormous factors and then add climate change, you have an incredible set of forces which are causing purpose to become hugely significant. The dictionary definition of purpose is, “the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.”
These factors have created a Purpose Pressure Cooker which, as we describe below, is cause for hope.
Purpose-driven business was already important
Purpose-driven business was already important before the coronavirus and the George Floyd protests in May 2020. There are a number of reasons making purpose important. This includes millennials wanting to work for companies and buy brands who have a greater purpose. In fact, 88% of millennials want to work for a company whose values reflect their own (PWC, 2018). This is such a key factor for companies, especially when we realise that millennials will be 75% of the global workforce by 2025.
A great example of a purpose-driven company is Unilever, whose purpose is “To make sustainable living commonplace.” They see purpose as a core driver of growth and differentiation. The evidence shows it’s working, because their purpose-driven brands are growing 69% faster than the rest of their business and delivering 75% of the company’s growth (Unilever 2019).
Indeed, one of its leading brands Ben & Jerry’s has consistently taken a stand on the rights of refugees. In a recent message on Twitter it said, “Let’s remember we’re all human and have the same rights to life, regardless of the country we happen to be born in.”
It’s time for companies to show their true colours
Companies are facing enormous challenges. In order for them to survive they have need to go back to their purpose in order to determine the way forward. Now it is essential that they innovate, put people first, support their community and respond to social issues.
Regardless of what companies have said about their values before, we are seeing their true colours now. There have been some inspirational examples, such as the retailer Morrisons, who took on 500 charity shop employees from Marie Curie and Clic Sargent to help older and vulnerable people across their stores. Also Nike released a powerful advert in support of Black Live Matter encouraging people to “be part of the change.” Incredibly this advert was supported by their rivals Adidas, who shared it on Twitter saying, “Together is how we move forward. Together is how we make change.” Quite rightly, these companies have been praised for their inspirational response.
If you’re still in any doubt about the importance of purpose right now, look at the generosity of hundreds of companies across the UK offering to supply free school meals in response to footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign to end child food poverty. Even though many of these businesses are struggling to survive, they feel a deep desire to make a difference. That’s purpose in action.
Charities are also focusing on purpose
Charities are also being challenged to re-engage their purpose. The coronavirus crisis has dramatically affected their income with early estimates being that UK charities will miss out on at least £4.3 billion. That was back in March 2020, so the effect must be even greater now.
There is increased demand for their help, but it is harder to deliver traditional services in a socially distanced society. So they need to go back to their purpose and innovate. Over the last six months we have spoken with over 100 charities across the world. Nearly every one of them has shifted their support from face to face to online. A brilliant example of this is CHAS (Children’s Hospices Across Scotland) who have launched the UK’s first virtual children’s hospice.
Earlier today Comic Relief has announced that it will stop sending celebrities to African countries. Sir Lenny Henry, co-founder of the charity, said, “Diversity and inclusion is important both in front and behind the camera. Times have changed and society has evolved, and we must evolve too. African people don’t want us to tell their stories for them, what they need is more agency, a platform and partnership.”
Seize the moment
We are in the middle of a 21st century war for humanity.
We are fighting a deadly virus.
We are fighting racism.
We are fighting climate change.
The glimmer of hope is that purpose has never been so important. This Purpose Pressure Cooker is a huge opportunity for companies and charities to create partnerships that tackle these enormous challenges. The place is to start is shared purpose. The time to start is now.