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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