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The DNA of a Purpose-led Business

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The DNA of a Purpose-led Business

A purpose-led business balances profit and purpose in a way that allows the business to grow while making a positive impact.

For business owners, being purpose-led is about aligning what you do with your why. For employees and consumers, it's about choosing where to spend your time and money.

On Helping Hands, founder and CEO of Pro Purpose, Alana Nicholls; mental health expert and founding board member of R U OK?, Graeme Cowan; and CEO and chief storyteller of the ImpactInstitute, Mark Jones; reveal the clear indicators we can all use to identify a purpose-led business.


From a consumer’s point of view, Mark says, transparency is key. He explains that many businesses have fallen into the trap of overt and excited messaging around their purpose, but scratch beneath the surface and there’s nothing to see.

In today’s atmosphere of easy access to information through social platforms and influencers, Mark says it’s essential for businesses to have an authentic message of purpose which is grounded in truth.

“The real dilemma here is that it’s one thing to be excited about purpose and say, ‘We are now purpose-driven’. It’s purpose washing – to pretend you’re something you’re not. The world we live in very quickly figures out whether it’s real or not.”

Graeme adds that a business’s messaging around purpose extends beyond words too, because often, actions speak louder than words. He cites a conflict he observed between word and action for a well-known soft drink brand. It spoke loudly about the true heart of their purpose messaging.

“I was in New York, in Times Square, with all the big posters around … one of them was for Coca Cola, and it said on there, Proudly powered by green energy … but you’re dropping a billion plastic bottles into the world every day. Can you really talk about that? Should you really highlight that if you haven’t got the other part of your business in order?”

Messaging about a business’ purpose and authenticity, Mark says, needs to come from the top down. It’s business owners and leaders who are responsible for authentic establishment of purpose and its impact – extending to how it is measured.

“Why do we exist? Is it to improve the planet? Improve the lives of people and communities? … What are the indicators of success that come from that? This is actually a whole way of thinking about leading and running an organisation. It’s not just deciding you’re going to do something good for a change.”

Finally, Alana explains that from an employee’s perspective, identifying purpose in a potential workplace nearly always hovers at the top of their list of reasons why they would seek to work for a business or organisation.

“Studies show for the Gen-Z millennials, their second-biggest factor when they’re considering who to work with is (the answer to the question), ‘Is this business centred around purpose?’”

Post COVID, Alana adds, Gen-Z are not alone in their desire. Today’s world is one in which we all seek to make life meaningful. Identifying purpose in the businesses we interact with through employment and daily life brings us a sense of purpose and satisfaction too.


See the HOW TO IDENTIFY A PURPOSE-LED BUSINESS discussion and the full catalogue of Helping Hands panels at Catch up on full episodes of Helping Hands on 9NOW.

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