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July 2019

How do purpose and sustainability fit together?

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Soulla Kyriacou, Blueprint COO 

Last November, we were invited by Ben Kellard to join twelve other experts and practitioners to explore how purpose and sustainability fit together. Today a proposed definition and one-page summary has been published at sustainablepurpose.com.  It aims to guide leaders and contribute to the dialogue on how best to integrate thinking and practice on organisational purpose and sustainability. Our intention is to contribute to the dialogue on this pressing issue. 

At Blueprint, we believe sustainability is integral to what it means to be a purpose-led business. As we express in our 5 Principles of a Purpose Led Business – being a Guardian for Future Generations is central to being a purpose-led business. We have found that too often, the work carried out on sustainability, CSR, or focused on the SDGs, is separate to the work businesses do around purpose. The motivation for pursuing an environmentally sustainable business strategy should be part of the core business rather than being seen as an additional commitment, as risk mitigation or in pursuit of a reputational badge.

Given the climate challenges that businesses must overcome in the coming years, there is an urgent need for rapid acceleration in businesses understanding of its responsibilities towards people and society. An important factor in this is linking sustainability with business strategy, and purpose is a key way to achieve this.

Blueprint’s view on the relationship between purpose and sustainability

Our Five Principles state that a purpose led company, which acts as a Guardian for Future Generations:

  • Honours its duty to protect the natural world and conserve finite resources
  • Contributes knowledge and experience to promote better regulation for the benefit of society as a whole rather than protecting self-interest
  • Invests in developing skills, knowledge and understanding in wider society to encourage informed citizenship

How can a business best act to help achieve this?

  1. Mitigation of harms – acknowledge and seek to measure the harm the business causes, accept responsibility and take steps to minimise the impacts
  2. Innovation in processes, products and services – create new core products and services, which for example, enable customers and encourage suppliers to make their own commitments to contributing to a sustainable future.
  3. Collective action – use the influence and expertise of the business to contribute to systemic change through:
  • Joining with others to help address the damage that cannot be dealt with by the business on its own
  • Sharing the expertise gained to help others address problems that the business has not caused but for which they have knowledge that could help in tackling them.

If you would like to discuss sustainability, purpose or any other topic with Blueprint  please email us