The Heart of business is people - Kathy Varol

The Heart of business is people

purpose beyond profit

In the sprawling tapestry of modern business, there’s a thread that’s becoming increasingly difficult to ignore: the idea that a company’s purpose should extend beyond the pursuit of profit.

Sure, the business case for a purpose-driven model is compelling.

The S&P 500 ESG Index, for instance, outperformed its profit-only counterpart during the pandemic, underscoring the resilience of businesses that prioritize environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors. Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Savita Subramanian went a step further, asserting that ESG factors provide a clearer insight into future earnings risks and volatility than traditional financial metrics. Savita’s analysis showed that businesses that didn’t address ESG issues saw a significant hurt to their business. Controversies involving ESG issues wiped $500 billion off the value of large U.S. companies over the 5-year period from 2015 to 2019.

Clearly, ESG isn’t just a nice to have, it’s a strategic imperative for business success.

While the business case is important to “win over” those who question why purpose matters, it typically fails to capture the heart of why a purpose beyond profit is vital. This isn’t just about enhancing the bottom line or cushioning shareholders’ pockets. It’s about something infinitely more precious: the impact of purpose on people.

Consider the vast portion of our lives we devote to our work—the hours, the energy, the creativity.

If work—this significant part of our existence—lacks meaning, can we truly say we’re leading meaningful lives? A job without a sense of purpose is like a puzzle missing its cornerstone piece; it feels incomplete, somehow less fulfilling.

At its core, having a purpose beyond profit transforms the workplace.

It’s not just about financial outcomes but about nurturing an environment where employees feel genuinely connected to their work. When people believe in what they do, their engagement and imagination for innovation skyrockets. They’re not just working for a paycheck; they’re contributing to a legacy, to something that will leave the world a little better than they found it.

Consider mental health, often swept under the rug in corporate corridors. A purpose-driven company provides a sense of belonging, at a time in our surface-level-Instagramable-world where deep belonging can be scarce.  Each day’s work contributes to a meaningful goal. This sense of worth can be a balm for the soul, a reassurance that one’s work matters. That your time on this little blue dot matters.

It’s about waking up each day knowing you’re part of something bigger than yourself.

The truth is, we all yearn to be part of a story that stretches beyond the confines of balance sheets and quarterly reports. We all deserve to be architects of a future that’s sustainable, equitable, and just. When companies recognize this, they tap into the deepest wells of human potential. They create spaces where innovation isn’t just welcomed but flourishes, where employees are not just present but passionately engaged.

So, while the business case for a purpose beyond profit is certainly strong, let’s not lose sight of its true value. It’s about respect for our shared humanity, about believing in the incredible potential each person brings to the table. It’s about creating workplaces that are not just profitable but profoundly human.

As business leaders, entrepreneurs, or employees, our greatest responsibility is to foster this sense of purpose. To build companies where the quest for profit coexists with the pursuit of something greater—a positive impact on society, on our planet, and most importantly, on the lives of those who walk through our doors every day.

That’s the real reason to infuse purpose into our business ethos. Not for the numbers, but for the people. For the conviction that we all deserve to contribute to something meaningful. That, at the end of the day, is what truly counts.

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