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Purpose for plcs – time for Boards to focus

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Charles Wookey

Download our new paper HERE

Together with a group of Chairs, NEDs and advisors, Blueprint has produced this short paper which aims to move Board’s understanding and ownership of purpose beyond the framing of the FRC Guidance. We argue that plc Boards must step up now to meet the challenge of societal expectations in the post covid recovery and to do this they need to commit seriously to becoming “purpose-led”

The paper sets out in simple practical terms what this implies in terms of profit, ESG, behaviour and measures, and ends with 6 questions for Boards and Board members individually to ask themselves.

What is the challenge and why is purpose important

The challenge for business is meeting the rising expectations of society in the aftermath of the pandemic. Many people want to see businesses recover but in a way that actively contributes to addressing endemic problems of societal inequality and climate change, bringing not only jobs and income but also a better society.

The best way for businesses to meet this challenge  – and in the process to become better businesses – is by becoming “purpose-led”. This orients a business to focus on the benefit to society that arises from its success – what it does, and how it does it. It is a transition which the FRC corporate governance code already encourages, but which many large companies have still to make in practice. The time to do it is now.

Why the Board

Without board ownership and collective commitment, work on purpose risks being a transient project rather than a fundamental orientation which outlasts the tenure of existing leadership.

A purpose-led company needs a Board that “owns” the purpose, and sees its role as the collective trustees of the purpose, ensuring that it is a constant North Star which guides decision taking and behaviour, and thereby ensures long-term sustainable perfomance.

The Board is there to guide and govern the business. Purpose brings discipline to strategy. And being purpose-led also brings a powerful and consistent way of thinking about the wider challenges and opportunities the business needs to address, not least its social and enviornmental impact.

Who is the document for?

The document is designed to stimulate discussion and reflection by plc Boards. They need to challenge themselves about thet extent to which the company is already purpose-led, and, if not, if this is something they want.

The document briefly explores why Boards should bother with purpose, what it means in practice, what behaviour is implied, and how to assess progress. It ends with 6 questions for Boards to ask themselves.

Our suggestion is that if Boards have an initial conversation using this document as a provocation, they also commit to a follow up in 6 or 12 months to review what progress they have made as a Board.

Click here to download – Purpose for plcs – time for Boards to focus

Learning from the present to help guide the future

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Loughlin Hickey, Trustee, A Blueprint for Better Business

Re-posted with permission from LinkedIn

There are many stories of how businesses are reacting to the current human crisis and its attendant economic consequences. The heartening stories are those where business have managed to put people at the heart of their survival and renewal thinking. Some of those businesses went into the crisis with a clarity around their purpose and beliefs and this has helped them navigate a course in these stormy waters; others have uncovered a sense of purpose that was latent but not explicit.

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LinkedIn: Being “Purpose-led” is not about avoiding tough decisions

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Charles Wookey, CEO, A Blueprint for Better Business

Read my thoughts in full on LinkedIn

Being purpose-led is not about avoiding tough decisions. It is about accepting and naming the difficulties and the struggle, bringing people into a decision making process, even if it is one that involves loss and sacrifice, and especially when there is acute uncertainty.

This article explores how being purpose-led can help businesses navigate the acute challenges they face now. And why it should not be misunderstood as just being ‘nice’. I hope you find it helpful and welcome your thoughts.

Taking stock of the emerging reality

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Charles Wookey, CEO, A Blueprint for Better Business

As we move into a second period of lockdown, with no clear route map yet emerging, there is a profound stress and anxiety for many across all dimensions of life and work.

In trying to make sense of what is happening, a very natural temptation is to predict, forecast and prescribe as if we somehow have privileged access to the answers. As one of our Advisory Council, Margaret Heffernan said a few days ago:

“Even as we anticipate a rising death toll, many are looking over the horizon to stake their claim to the future. It’s more than a little premature. We haven’t lived through the experience yet – and already we jump to conclusions about it. We don’t know who or where we will be when this ends. Attempts to define what happens next represent a power grab, attempting to wrest the future from all of us before we get there. We do better to experience fully and to understand the present than to let anyone pre-empt our future.”

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What does purpose look like in a crisis?

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Amelia Watts, Communications Manager, A Blueprint for Better Business

Over the last weeks, we have all experienced rapid change in response to Covid-19 and the economic uncertainty we face as a society. We wanted to share just a few illustrative examples of the positive ways in which businesses are responding. We hope this will show how companies can make thoughtful and compassionate decisions in difficult times and we aim to highlight, where we can, the thinking we believe sits behind them around relationships, people, purpose.

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LinkedIn: Putting purpose into practice: 5 “don’ts” and 3 “dos”

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Charles Wookey, CEO, A Blueprint for Better Business

Read my thoughts in full here

When Blueprint started its work with major companies on purpose in 2014, the first question from many business leaders was why: “Why we should spend time on purpose? What is the business case?”

Now, six years on, the first question is usually how: “We get that purpose matters. How do you do this really well, and how do you assess progress?”

We are learning a lot from the companies we are working with, and a range of thoughtful fellow travellers working in different ways with companies large and small.

Based on our experience this article outlines five don’ts and three dos:

www.linkedin.com/pulse/putting-purpose-practice-5-donts-3-dos-charles-wookey/

What does a ‘good’ purpose statement look like?

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Amelia Watts, Communications Manager, A Blueprint for Better Business

Last year Unilever CEO Alan Jope, said to an audience at Cannes Lions: “Woke-washing is beginning to infect our industry. It’s putting in peril the very thing which offers us the opportunity to help tackle many of the world’s issues.” He added: “Purpose-led brand communications is not just a matter of ‘make them cry, make them buy’. It’s about action in the world.”

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Purpose and culture

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Soulla Kyriacou is COO of A Blueprint for Better Business

Purpose is having a moment. From Larry Fink’s letter to CEOs back in 2018 to the changes in the UK  Corporate Governance Code, and more recently the statement on purpose from the US Business Roundtable. There is now a growing expectation that every business should be clear about its purpose.

Investors can play a significant role in advancing the purpose movement through their investment decisions and active ownership as well as through themselves being purpose-led businesses.

Writing for the Investment Association, Soulla explores the link between purpose and culture.

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