What is your purpose barometer telling you?

Holly Branson holds a copy of WEconomy up to the camera
Image by Adam Slama
Holly Branson
Holly Branson's writing
Published on 12 March 2018

Every day I see people unite purpose and profit in a way that allows our companies, our people, and the wider world, to thrive. When it came to writing about the work we do at Virgin and the wonderful people leading the charge in embedding purpose, the examples were endless.

Today I want to share an extract from WEconomy that asks the question, and shares some lessons, on what purpose is and how to do it well. I hope you enjoy it.

When you think just two decades ago, corporate social responsibility meant writing a check for the local little league team – a nice gesture, but hardly enough. Now the acronym CSR is banned at Virgin Management, because it hearkens back to the days of a single office or unlucky person tasked with reversing the negative effects of big business on the planet – sort of an apology for turning all of Earth’s resources into products.

For the longest time, business has used resources as if they were limitless, with no consideration for the environment or for what it might mean for future generations. But resources are running low, and companies are already feeling the burden on their supply chains. This is more obvious for those in manufacturing, and more challenging for those in the services sector, who don’t build products out of raw materials, to understand. But if you’re in retail and believe dwindling resources don’t affect you, you’re wrong.

Holly Branson speaking on stage
Image from BBC Sounds

Today, companies should be examining every link in their supply chains, measuring environmental impacts to improve efficiencies, and leveraging core skills and assets to move the needle on social change. They can do all of this and make a profit.

In WEconomy, purpose is used as your barometer for the greater good. Where does your business fit into your local and global community? Does it help or harm it? How does the welfare of the community shift the priorities of the company? Does the welfare of the community even register as a priority? 

Holly Branson with Marc and Craig Kielburger, holding copies of WEconomy in front of their faces
Image by Adam Slama

Ask the same question about the welfare of your most valuable asset – your workforce. If your “purpose barometer” swings toward the negative – you know you need to take steps within your company to reverse that trend. Part of a company’s mission today must involve social purpose, both for the greater good and for the good of the business. This bears repeating, because it’s important: social purpose should be embedded in the business model as much as any other value proposition!