Making a difference in other people’s lives is at the heart of how we think about purpose at the EY Beacon Institute. We define purpose as “an aspirational reason for being that is grounded in humanity and inspires a call to action.”
It is not enough for an entrepreneur to simply know what their purpose is, however. The purpose needs to be authentic to the business, and the entrepreneur needs to be able to articulate that purpose to customers, employees and other stakeholders. Perhaps more importantly, companies need to manifest their purpose — through decisions and actions — on a consistent basis. With the proliferation of information and instant communications in todays’ world, the public is quick to spot discrepancies between what a company says and what it does, with potentially damaging consequences when there is a gap between aspiration and reality.
Entrepreneurs are increasingly tapping into their sense of purpose to enhance their businesses’ reputations. They want the world to know that while they value a healthy bottom line, profit is a positive by-product of what they do, not the only reason for doing it.
Research by the EY Beacon Institute in association with Oxford Saïd Business School, found that today’s pioneering business leaders use language that links their organization’s strategy for innovation and renewal with “contributing to addressing significant challenges — or providing for human well-being in ways that go beyond product lines and traditional competition.”
Many recent EY World Entrepreneur of the Year program winners are excellent examples of how connecting with a purpose can create businesses with strong reputations and outstanding results.
Consider the example of Belgian entrepreneur Luc Bertrand. He is CEO of Ackermans & van Haaren (AvH), an infrastructure and investment group, and Chairman of DEME Group, a multi-billion-dollar provider of marine-dredging solutions. He used his sense of environmental purpose to bring strategic clarity and reputational integrity to his businesses, by emphasizing the need for a balance between economic development and ecological impact. His simple argument is this: “The basic drive of the company should be the creation of a better world for future generations.”