Why your Purpose is not your Vision, Mission, Values.

Natalie Simmons
September 20, 2022

Your company Vision, with a capital ‘V’, can truly be the rallying cry for your staff and your stakeholders. Your Vision can win over the hearts and minds of your customers too. Who doesn’t love a big, bold vision?

Your mission is the fuel in the tank, the imperative for your staff to realise the Vision. And the Values you espouse, and live by will – if the result of consultation with your people – scaffold your Vision and Mission.

So what is Purpose? It means different things in different contexts but in the context of business, the role and meaning of Purpose is clear.

Your purpose is the ‘why’ that binds your output and your input so that you can safeguard your organisation’s long-term success and create a legacy that your stakeholders will identify and, more critically, engage with.

Your Purpose, aligned with a rigorous ESG policy, has strong links to bottom and top line growth, driving higher returns, if this report by McKinsey is anything to go by. (Hint – it is, despite its pre-Covid 19 publishing date.)

It’s 2022 and the business climate is in tilt. It has been for some time now.

The fallout from Covid-19 has been manifold, but one of the largest determining factors in the public’s shift to a more sustainable mindset has been played out via our wallets. 1 in 3 dollars invested via managed funds is currently being placed with ethical companies. In recent times we have also been witnessing a shift in the decision-making power within organisations along generational lines. It is with that ‘changing of the guard’ that new priorities for leadership have arisen.

I can’t categorically say that millennials are driving a sustainable practice revolution. And there’s no ‘single source of truth’ to prove it anyway. However, a growing body of research indicates that yes, companies who are ahead of the ESG adoption curve are realising benefits to profits, share price, staff retention and brand recognition, among other upsides.

There’s also evidence to suggest that ethical and principled business practices, investments and purpose are creating a competitive advantage for organisations who go down this path. Paying attention to ESG concerns via a strong purpose has long-term benefits.

“Few things will impact capital allocation decisions—and thereby the long-term value of your company—more than how effectively you navigate the global energy transition in the years ahead.” Larry Fink, BlackRock

In the quote above, Fink is referring to the ‘E’ in ESG. Where companies can build a foundation on which the ‘E’ and the ‘S’ can thrive is through Governance – the ‘G’. Governance is the living answer to the question, “What do we stand for?” Governance is no longer a matter of balancing personal philosophies with HR policies and the all-important profit. A strong Purpose, one with its eye on the idea of legacy, will drive long-term profitability and success.

For a company's purpose to be effective in any real measure, it must be authentic. Yes - that word. I know. Authenticity has got to be the most overused and misunderstood word in the corporate lexicon. Brené Brown says it best –

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

So, in a way, your purpose must be braver because you will be held to account by your stakeholders. You will be asked, perhaps even audited, on how your company is delivering/living/acting on your purpose. That’s where governance plays its part.

Here are my 5 key things to help leaders differentiate their Purpose from Vision, Mission & Values

1. Your people, shareholders, and customers want to know what your Purpose is. Don’t make them wait.

2. Your Purpose, like your ESG policy, will be trackable. There won’t be an audit on your values. And while there’s no official global certified channel for Purpose auditing, if you don’t walk the talk, you will be called out.

3. Governance is key. Start there. Just because it comes after the ‘E’ and the ‘S’ doesn’t mean it isn’t the springboard for a strong ESG strategy and Purpose. After all if we do not know what we are governing, how do we know that we are doing it at all?

4. Listen to your people. Purpose is inclusive. It is engaging. Involve your people in the creation of Purpose and they will not only understand it but, more critically,  give it momentum.

5. Your Purpose done right is how you communicate and live your ESG strategy, simply and clearly.

While there is no current global benchmark for auditing, we at Barefoot Citizens Consulting have created The Net Purpose Score.  It is a critical tool that helps you understand your company’s relationship to Purpose and how it is perceived by key stakeholder groups.

To ensure that your ESG strategy truly aligns to your Purpose, get in touch. Let’s work together to see your goals resonate with those that matter - your customers, employees, supply chain, investors, stakeholders, and the communities in which you operate.