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Profit AND Purpose? Yes, You Can (and Should)

Porcelain unicorn sitting next to a small pile of coins

Purpose or profit? Can the two co-exist?

It’s a timeless debate that has been had for a long time.

But what if purpose and profit could not only coexist, but also be dependent on each other?

Then the question isn’t focused on if, but rather, how?

It only takes a spark...

Change doesn’t happen on its own. Nor does it typically happen overnight. But sometimes, all it takes is a spark - someone who is willing to take the first step or the first challenge.

Whether we find ourselves working in a startup or an incumbent institution, we all have a role to play in the outcome of our shared society. Like raindrops hitting water puddles, our actions, however small, can cause a ripple effect in our larger ecosystems.

Of course, being purposeful is a choice. Just as going 'Beyond Good' is an intentional decision that we make, as individuals and as organizations.

Dare to think differently

Consider the following from Oxfam’s Time to Care report:

'If everyone were to sit on their own wealth piled up in $100 bills, a middle-class person in a rich country would be at the height of a chair, and the world's two richest men would be sitting in outer space.'

 

So how might the world be different if we approach our work with the intention of reducing the inequality that has very much grown under COVID-19?

Instead of focusing solely on how best to help consumers spend the stimulus money, how might we provide the tools and resources to help them make better decisions and attain a more financially secure future?

Instead of focusing solely on the younger generations and so-called digital natives, how might we try to better understand the needs of all customers — and create better and more inclusive solutions for all demographics?

Instead of narrowly focusing on the trillions of dollars of wealth transfer from baby boomers to Gen-X and millennials, how might we help safeguard the assets of older generations, and create holistic plans to create greater benefits across generations?

Consider the example from Tony's Chocolonely. Tony’s leads by example to show that profit and purpose can (and should) co-exist; that it is possible to make slave-free chocolate and be commercially successful through traceable beans, higher prices and strong farmers, focusing on long-term relationships and improved productivity.

In a purpose-driven economy, “money is a means, not a goal”. Our work means something more than a value exchange for money; we need to adjust our thinking and expand our mental maps to see what is beyond us.

The 'Beyond Good' journey

We started writing Beyond Good under very different circumstances. As we started drafting our lines and scheduling our interviews with organizations and thought leaders, our worlds changed drastically with the onset of the pandemic.

While COVID-19 did not create many of the inequalities that we have witnessed in the past year, it has exacerbated them, as the world shifted our cadence and routines toward digital. And we are still experiencing the fallout from the subsequent economic downturn.

Globally, half a billion people are expected to be pushed into poverty by the economic fallout from the pandemic. While the world’s 1,000 richest people have already recouped their losses within nine months, the road to recovery for the world’s poorest will take far longer.

In fact, the United States has far less mobility and equality of opportunity today than almost the entire European Union, with the lowest minimum wage of all G7 nations — in terms of purchasing power — and the third-highest poverty rate in the 37 countries of the OECD:

  • More than 50 million Americans were food insecure by the end of 2020, up 15 million from the year before.

  • As many as 17 million kids are victims of the homework gap with up to a third of Black, Latino, Native American, and Alaska Native students lacking high-speed internet access at home.

  • 1 in 4 women are considering stepping out or stepping back from the workplace, according to McKinsey.

We might be in the same storm, but we are not in the same boat

As we step closer towards global recovery, we must make the new normal more sustainable and equitable.

A society’s wealth is not measured by how much equity is accumulated by individuals; Rather, it is measured by how well its citizens watch out for one another; how it lifts up those who are the most vulnerable; and how its bonds are strengthened through the most challenging times – working towards one common purpose.

We are one civilization, one humanity, sharing one home.

The challenges that we face today cannot be solved without all stakeholders at the table. We need innovators, entrepreneurs, funders, educators, policymakers, and technologists. We need thinkers and doers alike. We need those impacted and those who create impact. We need everyone who is passionate about changing the future for the better. And we need everyone to have a seat at this table to ensure a better future for everyone in our society – beyond those that can fit in the room where decisions are made.

Think about the impact that you can make every day. Think about how your company or your industry can help your community in new ways. Aspire and inspire and, most importantly, take that first step and action.

So, will you join us on this Beyond Good journey and help us create a more equal society — together as one global community that helps meet the needs of everyone within it?