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Navigating Purpose – provocations for CEOs

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Charles Wookey, CEO, A Blueprint for Better Business

This introduction was given to an audience of FTSE 100 leaders at a recent Blueprint CEO Forum.

Ahead of this evening’s discussion, I wanted to offer this illustration as an opening framing, and from there draw out three provocations. In doing this, I’m conscious that we represent a charity working with business leaders – one offering insights and questions – but we are not the people on the bridge of the ship. You are.

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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 the recent 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 major role in advancing the purpose movement through their investment decisions and active ownership as well as through themselves being purpose led businesses.

In this article for the Investment Association, Soulla explores the link between purpose and culture. To read it in full click here: Purpose and culture – Soulla Kyriacou – Investment Association

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How can business respond to the climate crisis?

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A Blueprint For Better Business

As we made clear earlier this year, Blueprint welcomes the decision by UK business leaders to voice their concerns about climate change. Today a cross-sectoral business group has decided to launch an independent business platform, the Business Declares Network. They reflect a widespread understanding that business has a vital role to play in solving global sustainability challenges as demonstrated by the SDGs and organisations such as Climate Action 100+

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What role does HR play in purpose-led organisations?

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Dee Corrigan, Head of Corporate Engagement, A Blueprint for Better Business

As John Kay, one of Britain’s leading economists, eloquently argues business cannot be understood as simply a nexus of contracts between self-interested individuals, but is instead better expressed as a series of relationships, ideally characterised by respect and co-creation, where people are moved to commit to a shared worthwhile endeavour.

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Is asking creative questions key to tackling businesses fairness challenge?

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Charles Wookey is CEO of A Blueprint for Better Business

“I recently heard that a (now former) financial services CEO was asked by his team if “fairness” should be one of their core values. “No. That’s ridiculous. Life is unfair” said the CEO.

Fairness is a recurring topic in public discourse about business. In practice, however, we are often conflicted about what fairness means in a given situation and in particular, how to translate it into the complexity of business life.”

In the July edition of Coaching Perspectives Magazine, Charles challenges readers to think about why fairness matters in business. He explores how the insights and perspective of a coaching approach can help and why it is important to think about the underlying assumptions at play within businesses about how people are motivated.

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Piffle or pertinent: Does your company have a meaningful purpose?

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Guest writer: Richard Aldwinckle, Sustainability & Purpose Adviser to Unilever, 2002-17

In July 2018 the Financial Reporting Council published a revised corporate governance code, requiring premium listed companies to “establish the company’s purpose” and ensure it aligns with values, strategy and culture. So you would think that companies without a purpose would have spent the past year busily devising and applying one to their business.

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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

Calls for climate action from across society

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Amelia Watts, Blueprint

At Blueprint, we believe that every step towards climate action is something that should be recognised. There has been a huge surge in citizen activism – notably the school strikes across the world – and the last few days have seen a flood of activity around the challenge that climate change presents to society.

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