Fortune magazine and the Aspen Institute’s Business and Society Program have launched an ambitious effort to capture how leading businesses are putting purpose at the center of their strategies and daily operations. Leading with purpose is not new. In a post for the Business and Society program, Miguel Padro quotes from a piece by a group of CEOs that Fortune published in 1944. Titled A Framework for a Postwar Economy, it laid out what we would now call a Higher Ambition:
The good of all – the common good – is a means to the enduring happiness of every individual in society and is superior to the economic interest of any private group not only in war (when the validity of the principle is obvious) but in peace as well.
Padro continues, “As the document would make clear, the purpose of business, big or small, was to advance the common good. Profitability without advancing the common good was failure.” We couldn’t agree more. Profitability should be in service to the larger purpose of the company, not the other way around. As Allstate Corporation and Allstate Insurance Company CEO and Chairman Thomas J. Wilson comments in the video below, the notion that corporations only exist to make money for shareholders is “completely wrong today.” He continues that his shareholders “get it” as do their customers and employees. Watson is joined on the panel by Xerox CEO Ursula Burns and serial socially positive entrepreneur Adam Lowry. Lowry reflected that the purpose of business should be “shared prosperity” and added that this doesn’t just refer to money. Xerox’s Burns added that purpose makes a company a place where people actually want to show up.She notes that it may cost a bit more in the short-term but that the long-term benefits outweigh them.
This panel discussion is enlightening. We encourage you to watch it and reflect on your purpose and that of your organization. Take our personal or organizational Higher Ambition assessment as a catalyst to your thinking and action. We’ll keep curating the most compelling content in this area and bringing it to you here on our site.
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