purpose is here to stay

  4 min

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Purpose is here to stay

Not a trend, but a permanent shift for business

While corporate purpose is certainly trending, it’s beginning to look like the wax and wane cycle of other trends won’t apply. Instead, the face of business and capitalism is changing, perhaps for ever. Companies operating without an aspirational purpose risk falling by the wayside in favor of those businesses trying to make their slice of the world a little bit better for everyone. Perhaps it is time to pivot to purpose.

Jelle Steenbergern   Wouter Noordijk

One of the pivotal moments of this ongoing shift towards purpose came in 2019, when the U.S. Business Roundtable, a non-profit composed of corporate CEO’s, issued a statement in which they proposed redefining the purpose of a corporation. No longer is shareholder value the ultimate end goal towards which everything flows. Instead, corporations must work to provide value to all stakeholders, from employees to suppliers, and from customers to community. Examples include providing fair compensation and benefits, fostering diversity and inclusion, dealing fairly and ethically with suppliers and promoting environmentally sustainable practices. Signed by a veritable who’s who of American business leaders, the statement is a clear indicator that an aspirational corporate purpose is central for business in the future.

Redefining corporations

“Businesses must work to provide value to all stakeholders.”

volkert-engelsman.jpg

What kind of impact does the pandemic have on our food choices at this very moment?

For many consumers, general statements on environmental and social responsibility are little more than words in the winds. In our age of radical transparency businesses are being judged on their actions. A new form of marketing embraces that idea by taking a confrontational, almost activist stance emphasizing both the seriousness of the problem and their commitment to solving (part of) it. Volkert Engelsman is the founder and CEO of Eosta, a distribution company for organic fruits and vegetables. They are committed to combat climate change, and not afraid to show it. 

“How you define profit is a question of purpose. Are you profitable if you disregard people and planet, and dump your social and environmental costs on taxpayers at best, and future generations at worst? We need a new economy in which we focus on a fair and inclusive definition of profit. The new generation of consumers is looking for that. You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem.” 

Eosta puts this into practice by, for example, putting a sticker with a QR-code on all their avocado. Scanning the code reveals the story of the product as well as the social and environmental impact the product has, with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as a measuring stick. “We measure and manage that impact, but also market it. Because how can a farmer go green if he’s in the red?” That means they employ a form of true cost accounting incorporating the hidden social and environmental costs of products, and work to mitigate them. 

“We need a new economy in which we focus on a fair and inclusive definition of profit. The new generation of consumers is looking for that.”

“Consumer sentiment will continue to shift towards purposeful businesses.”

Practical risk management

From a pure economic perspective aspiring to purpose is also beginning to make sense, even if it’s just part of practical risk management. Large credit rating firms like Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s have been taking environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors into account since 2019. The European Securities and Market Authority is set to advise the European Union on incorporating sustainability in investments in March of 2021. Several European national banks like the Bank of England have issued warnings about climate change, essentially stating that sooner or later, the bill comes due. These are steps in an ongoing process, but further indications of a likely permanent shift.

Looking ahead

Purpose has already become far more than just a buzzword, and the future of business and marketing will absolutely be required to clearly communicate purpose in order to be successful. Consumer sentiment will continue to shift towards purposeful businesses, and customers will continue to become increasingly sceptical of hollow statements and empty promises. Without actions to back up words, companies with an aspiration will struggle. Finding a way to market your purpose is a challenge without a clear answer, and we’re likely to see a more honest and radical form of marketing, backed up by evidence and data, presented to consumers as conveniently and unobtrusively as possible. Digital user experience is likely to play a key role in this, as the virtual world and the real world continue to blend, things like augmented reality or simple QR-codes like the Eosta avocados may become part of the new normal.

“If your business can contribute to making the part of the planet and the lives of those it engages with a little bit better, you’re most of the way there.”

Finding your purpose

The first step for a company looking to pivot to purpose is finding that purpose. Think big here, but act small. Tackle an area of interest that feels natural for your business, whether that’s social, environmental, or something else entirely. The world has its fair share of problems to pick from, and it’s vital to realize that consumers don’t expect you to change everything. They expect you to be a part of the solution, to meaningfully contribute to your share of the story. Circling back to the beginning of the article, a business must provide value for all of its stakeholders. That likely includes the environment, as well. If your business can contribute to making the part of the planet and the lives of those it engages with a little bit better, you’re most of the way there. Easier said than done, but more than worth the effort to ensure a better future.

© Volkert Engelsman

Offline: This content can only be displayed when online.

  4 min

Purpose is here to stay

Not a trend, but a permanent shift for business

While corporate purpose is certainly trending, it’s beginning to look like the wax and wane cycle of other trends won’t apply. Instead, the face of business and capitalism is changing, perhaps for ever. Companies operating without an aspirational purpose risk falling by the wayside in favor of those businesses trying to make their slice of the world a little bit better for everyone. Perhaps it is time to pivot to purpose.

Jelle Steenbergern   Wouter Noordijk

One of the pivotal moments of this ongoing shift towards purpose came in 2019, when the U.S. Business Roundtable, a non-profit composed of corporate CEO’s, issued a statement in which they proposed redefining the purpose of a corporation. No longer is shareholder value the ultimate end goal towards which everything flows. Instead, corporations must work to provide value to all stakeholders, from employees to suppliers, and from customers to community. Examples include providing fair compensation and benefits, fostering diversity and inclusion, dealing fairly and ethically with suppliers and promoting environmentally sustainable practices. Signed by a veritable who’s who of American business leaders, the statement is a clear indicator that an aspirational corporate purpose is central for business in the future.

Redefining corporations

“Businesses must work to provide value to all stakeholders.”

volkert-engelsman.jpg

What kind of impact does the pandemic have on our food choices at this very moment?

For many consumers, general statements on environmental and social responsibility are little more than words in the winds. In our age of radical transparency businesses are being judged on their actions. A new form of marketing embraces that idea by taking a confrontational, almost activist stance emphasizing both the seriousness of the problem and their commitment to solving (part of) it. Volkert Engelsman is the founder and CEO of Eosta, a distribution company for organic fruits and vegetables. They are committed to combat climate change, and not afraid to show it. 

“How you define profit is a question of purpose. Are you profitable if you disregard people and planet, and dump your social and environmental costs on taxpayers at best, and future generations at worst? We need a new economy in which we focus on a fair and inclusive definition of profit. The new generation of consumers is looking for that. You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem.” 

Eosta puts this into practice by, for example, putting a sticker with a QR-code on all their avocado. Scanning the code reveals the story of the product as well as the social and environmental impact the product has, with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as a measuring stick. “We measure and manage that impact, but also market it. Because how can a farmer go green if he’s in the red?” That means they employ a form of true cost accounting incorporating the hidden social and environmental costs of products, and work to mitigate them. 

“We need a new economy in which we focus on a fair and inclusive definition of profit. The new generation of consumers is looking for that.”

Practical risk management

From a pure economic perspective aspiring to purpose is also beginning to make sense, even if it’s just part of practical risk management. Large credit rating firms like Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s have been taking environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors into account since 2019. The European Securities and Market Authority is set to advise the European Union on incorporating sustainability in investments in March of 2021. Several European national banks like the Bank of England have issued warnings about climate change, essentially stating that sooner or later, the bill comes due. These are steps in an ongoing process, but further indications of a likely permanent shift.

“Consumer sentiment will continue to shift towards purposeful businesses.”

Looking ahead

Purpose has already become far more than just a buzzword, and the future of business and marketing will absolutely be required to clearly communicate purpose in order to be successful. Consumer sentiment will continue to shift towards purposeful businesses, and customers will continue to become increasingly sceptical of hollow statements and empty promises. Without actions to back up words, companies with an aspiration will struggle. Finding a way to market your purpose is a challenge without a clear answer, and we’re likely to see a more honest and radical form of marketing, backed up by evidence and data, presented to consumers as conveniently and unobtrusively as possible. Digital user experience is likely to play a key role in this, as the virtual world and the real world continue to blend, things like augmented reality or simple QR-codes like the Eosta avocados may become part of the new normal.

“If your business can contribute to making the part of the planet and the lives of those it engages with a little bit better, you’re most of the way there.”

Finding your purpose

The first step for a company looking to pivot to purpose is finding that purpose. Think big here, but act small. Tackle an area of interest that feels natural for your business, whether that’s social, environmental, or something else entirely. The world has its fair share of problems to pick from, and it’s vital to realize that consumers don’t expect you to change everything. They expect you to be a part of the solution, to meaningfully contribute to your share of the story. Circling back to the beginning of the article, a business must provide value for all of its stakeholders. That likely includes the environment, as well. If your business can contribute to making the part of the planet and the lives of those it engages with a little bit better, you’re most of the way there. Easier said than done, but more than worth the effort to ensure a better future.

© Volkert Engelsman

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Food Inspiration Magazine is the online magazine for foodservice professionals in search of inspiration and innovation. With the magazine we collect, enrich and spread inspiration. The free subscription magazine is published eight times per year and is an abundant source of inspiration for food and hospitality professionals. Our readers can be found in the U.S., Northern Europe, Latin America and Asia.
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