Though there is a sharp increase in the number of executives talking about Purpose, relatively few think their company has gone far enough in its Purpose journey to create significant value. Huge opportunities remain for companies willing to set off on this road less travelled.
Our survey asked business leaders to rate the criticality of 37 different factors for integrating purpose into their organization. Purposeful companies identified almost twice as many of these factors as critical compared with companies that are serving a single stakeholder. In other words, these best-in-class companies have a much deeper and broader understanding of the actions needed for Purpose to become part of the corporate DNA.
Purposeful companies are more integrated than their peers across all of the factors deemed critical, yet even they admit to falling short on some of these crucial issues, saying they still have a way to go in integrating purpose into decision-making and putting it at the heart of the corporate culture.
Executives at companies that have embraced but not yet integrated Purpose claimed only modest progress in general and identified a smaller number of areas as critical than did their peers at Purposeful companies.
This suggests that these companies may be at risk of one of the greatest pitfalls along the purpose journey: treating their purpose as a marketing-led activity.
Integrating purpose requires commitment
The Purpose Integration Curve is inferred from the answers given by the executives we surveyed. It suggests that the moment of greatest danger for a company, when the most value is at risk, is when there is a big gap between what stakeholders expect of the firm and the reality of its actions.
This is especially likely to occur in the early phase of articulating a Purpose, when the expectations have been raised, but the process of embedding the pursuit of Purpose in all that the company does has barely started.
Companies must demonstrate commitment through a willingness to transform aspects of their business and even sacrifice parts of their operations that are not aligned with being Purposeful.