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CMI Report: The What, The Why And The How Of Purpose

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Written by Charles Wookey

Published by the CMI, this research from Charlie Ebert of Judge Business School Cambridge, Dr Victoria Hurth of the University of Plymouth, and Prof Jaideep Prabhu of Judge Business School Cambridge draws on research and interviews with leaders from 18 of the biggest UK and international brands, including BT, Unilever and Marks & Spencer, to discover WHY companies are becoming purpose-driven. 

Over the last two or three years, the idea of organisational purpose as being a key to both create better businesses and repair the fractured relationship between business and society has grown. Financial powerhouses like BlackRock have joined calls for companies to adopt purpose, to shape stronger cultures and deliver sustainable success. There’s an increasing body of evidence on the harm that can be done by a myopic focus on maximising shareholder value. Corporate social responsibility – the idea that a business can do whatever it wants within the law so long as it is doing some good somewhere – was an earlier attempt to address these challenges, but it feels increasingly outdated.

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Talking about Blueprint in the USA

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Written by Charles Wookey, CEO A Blueprint for Better Business

Last month I went to the USA for a week. I was there to give a presentation at a University in Minnesota, and then had a series of meetings in Boston and New York with people who had expressed interest in A Blueprint for Better Business. I was very curious to understand the cultural differences and explore how what we are up to here might ‘land’ there.

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“Common Good”, Its Meaning, & Its Capacity to Inspire & Sustain Ethical Institutions

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Blueprint was pleased to be invited to present a paper at the Common Good Conference, June 21-23, 2018 at the University of St. Thomas Minneapolis. In this paper Charles Wookey, Helen Alford and Loughlin Hickey share the origins of A Blueprint for Better Business, the ongoing work towards advancing the common good through purpose-led business and early learnings from our work with some major companies.

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5 insights about purpose-led employers and how to apply them to your workplace

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Following Blueprint’s ‘Becoming a Purpose-led Employer’ panel on June 11th, we wanted to share five of the themes that emerged during the event.

Chaired by Andrew Hill, Management Editor of the FT, panelists include Kate Glazebrook, CEO and co-founder of Applied, the Behavioural Insights Team’s first tech venture, Maaike de Bie, General Counsel of Royal Mail, and Jason Stockwood, Simply Business Group CEO, previously MD of Match.com. The discussion focused on how businesses, from start-ups to large established companies, can best address the varying challenges of being a responsible & responsive employer.

This is just the first in our first in our ‘Principles of Purpose’ event series – our next will explore what it means to be honest and fair with customers. If you’re interested in attending future Blueprint events, please sign up to our mailing list.

In case you missed it, here’s Blueprint’s perspective on what it means to be a responsible and responsive employer and why it matters.

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The role of business in promoting inclusive growth

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‘There is strong evidence that the current level of inequality is unsustainable from a political, social and economic perspective. We have changed the inclusive growth narrative, but now action must follow.’

Gabriela Ramos, OECD Chief of Staff and Sherpa to the G20, speaking to the OECD Global Parliamentary Network, London, 5 April 2018

Governments cannot act alone if we are to achieve the aims of the Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals) and support inclusive growth, businesses must play their part. As employers, investors and product or service providers it is critical for companies to recognise their role in meeting the needs of marginalised groups, reducing inequalities and shaping policy and regulation. In fact, it is in their interests to do so, because a more equal economy will benefit them. A recent report has estimated that achieving the Global Goals would open up more than $12 trillion in business savings and revenue and create 380 million new jobs by 2030. This would deliver financial returns, better-educated employees, and higher consumer purchasing power.

Looking forward how can businesses change their practices to achieve inclusive social outcomes? And what does the purpose-led business of the 21st century look like?

Business leaders associated with Blueprint, including Sir Mike Rake, Chair of Advisory Council; Sue Garrard, Blueprint Trustee and Executive Vice President, Sustainable Business & Communications, Unilever; and Sacha Romanovitch, Chief Executive, Grant Thornton joined the conversation with the OECD and representatives from 70 parliaments. Here we share their perspectives and experiences on what it means to be purpose-led and how businesses can support growth that delivers for society.

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Finance has a purpose, done well it has a huge role to play in society

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Over the last year, the discussion around how financial services, in particular investors, are responsible for the management of companies has grown. Activist investors, once seen as “corporate raiders” intending to radically change a company to increase stock value for short-term gains, are now viewed as possible stewards of increased diversity and better corporate governance. Mainstream investors have turned activist in areas such as weapons manufacture, climate change, excessive pay, diversity, and inappropriate behaviour by senior management.

Speaking to the OECD Global Parliamentary Network, hosted by the UK All Parliamentary Party Group (APPG) on Inclusive Growth at Parliament last month, Dr Hari Mann, Hult Business School and Visiting Fellow at Cass Business School, argued that the purpose of finance in society goes far beyond the role of investors and always has. Finance has a purpose, he said, and done well it has a huge impact and a significant role to play in society.  He highlighted four defining areas where finance impacts inclusive growth.

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What does it mean to be a responsible and responsive employer”?

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Ahead of Blueprint’s ‘Becoming a Purpose-led Employer’ panel event on June 11th, here’s our take on what it means to be a responsible and responsive employer and why it matters. We welcome your views and invite you to share any questions or topics you would like to see discussed at the event. You can download the full paper ‘What does it mean to be a responsible and responsive employer?’ here. 

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How can investors tell if a company is genuinely purpose-led?

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Written by Michael Hilton and Charles Wookey

What questions should I ask to get under the skin about whether a company is serious about purpose?

In March 2018, Blueprint and Quintin Price (former global head of active strategies at BlackRock) convened a group of 10 leading stewardship investors. Together they drafted a short list of questions which they believe will help investors respond to this challenge. You can download the full paper ‘How can investors identify purpose-led companies?’ here.

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