Putting Purpose into Practice

The theme of our 2014 conference was Putting Purpose into Practice. The conference was chaired by Channel 4’s Jon Snow and speakers included Sir Mike Rake, president of the CBI, John Kay, Economist and Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever.

Paul Polman
Mike Rake
Vincent Nichols

Speaker Profiles

See the profiles of the speakers and panellists of our 2014 conference.

2013 Conference

The theme of our 2013 conference was ‘Business Success Through Serving Society”. Key note speakers were Justin Welby and John Kay.

2012 Conference

The speakers at our launch conference in 2012 included Dominic Barton, Paul Polman, Vittorio Colao and Maurice Glasman.

Overview and videos of the sessions

A pamphlet giving an overview of the conference can be viewed here: 2014 Conference Pamphlet

Welcome and Blueprint Update

Charles Wookey and Loughlin Hickey give an overview of what A Blueprint for Better Business is seeking to achieve,  the work it has been doing and the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions they get when discussing Blueprint “Blueprint acts as a mirror for business to reflect on its purpose and role in society  – going beyond compliance …. we Challenge, Coach and Connect”

Why Purpose Matters

President of the CBI, Sir Mike Rake, spoke about Why Purpose Matters. He said purpose is important because it brings together a road map for long term sustainable profit. If we do the right thing for society we will inevitably do the right thing for shareholders. He talked about how businesses have to –  engage, listen & learn –  how to become relevant and credible. Then we will create a society that respects business. Business must be a force for good because in many ways business is society. “We have to be credible with the public and to do this we need to treat people fairly”. 

A transcript of John Kay’s speech in full can be downloaded here: John Kay transcript

The Future of Purpose Driven Business

John Kay discussed the Future of Purpose Driven Business pulling in perspectives from lawyers, economists, management consultants, anthropologists, linguistic and moral philosophers and environmental scientists. In his distinctive and insightful way he talked about topics from trust and transparency to the legitimacy of business. He started by dispelling the myth that a business’s purpose is to make money for shareholders then moved on to the varying purposes of businesses from the different perspectives  concluding that “making a profit is no more the purpose of business than breathing is the purpose of life”.

Can Purpose be Measured?

John Kay joined a panel of investors to discuss the results of an exercise which looked at whether it is possible to develop a methodology, using publicly available information, to assess companies’ alignment to the Blueprint Principles and whether there is a correlation between companies’ alignment to the Blueprint Principles and financial performance.  The panel was chaired by Ben Andradi and included: James Macpherson (Blackrock) Saker Nusseibeh (Hermes Investment Management) Andy Howard (Didas Research) Louise Dudley (Hermes Investment Management)

The Challenges of Putting Purpose into Practice

Jon Snow, from Channel 4 News, chaired a panel drawn from business to discuss the challenges they face in putting purpose into practice. The panellists included: Andrew Dunnett (Vodafone) Paul Feeney (Old Mutual Wealth) Julia Rebholz (Centrica) Alex Rees (Rugs of Petworth)

Partnering with Critical Friends

Louise James of Accenture, talked about the benefits to both business and wider society of business partnering with NGOs “Businesses really value the insights and expertise that civil society can bring ” she said  “..partnering with NGOs…can sometimes open up a bit of Pandora’s box, but they recognise it’s better to know what is in there rather than ignoring it completely” Partnerships are not easy and can be frustrating. Her recommendations to help make partnering work were: Trust – investing the time to build this trust – a friend that is only critical will lose that trust Transparency – being clear on expectations and objectives on both sides Tenacity – working through challenges and being honest when challenges exist.

Looking Back – Looking Forward

Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever talked to Prof Rebecca Henderson about the importance of Purpose and Unilever’s purpose journey.

Closing Remarks

Charles Wookey, acting CEO of Blueprint, summarises some of the key messages and invites organisations to join the movement.

You can see the programme for the day here: 2014 Conference Programme