We’re big proponents of purpose-led, values-based companies. It’s what drive us and we’re committed to helping our clients get real clarity around their purpose and ensuring their actions align to deliver that across key stakeholder groups: employees, customers, consumers, suppliers, shareholders, and communities.

This, however, is not how large publicly traded companies have traditionally thought or acted. Ever since the economist Milton Friedman introduced the single-minded doctrine that generating profits (aka return on shareholder investment) is the sole responsibility of corporations, this has been the norm. That was 50 years ago and it’s about time that changed.

That’s why we were so encouraged when the Business Roundtable announced last week that the purpose of a corporation should no longer be so single-minded. Corporations must also invest in their employees, protect the environment, and deal fairly and ethically with their suppliers. So far, the Business Roundtable, comprised of roughly 200 CEOs of major global companies (e.g., Walmart, Amazon, Pepsi, Apple) is being criticized for “all talk, no action.” And being big believers in action, we agree that action is critical. But, for now, let’s celebrate the fact that the conversation is changing, that there’s hope that the financial markets will begin measuring success by more than just quarterly profits. For now, we applaud these business leaders. Next, we hold them accountable!

You can find a fuller description of the Business Roundtable’s recent announcement plus a New York Times podcast that provides a fascinating historical perspective on the evolution of purpose-led companies, on The New York Times website (access via free registration).

 

Download our Sklar Wilton Define Your Purpose tool to help articulate the difference your brand wants to make in the lives of consumers. Or, learn how we helped M&M Food Market breathe new life into their brand by understanding who to win with, defining a compelling, differentiated brand promise, and overhauling the customer experience.