At a recent Fortune magazine global forum, CEOs Mark Bertolini (Aetna, a Center for Higher Ambition Leadership member company), Chip Bergh (Levi Strauss), and Walt Bettinger (Charles Schwab) all spoke about how articulating a social purpose has helped drive healthy profits for their organizations.
At Aetna, the initiatives focus on compensation and benefits for lower paid employees — individuals essential for serving Aetna’s customers. For Levi Strauss, the focus is to have 80% of the company’s products made in factories with “worker well-being” programs, up from 15% today. At Schwab, efforts are directed at customers: refunding 100% of their fees if they are unhappy for any reason. As diverse as these activities are, each CEO reported that their stakeholder-centric approaches are central to creating long-term value for investors. In one example mentioned at the Fortune event, Schwab CEO Bettinger reported that enrollment in their fee-based advisory services jumped 50% after they announced the accountability guarantee.
As these and other Higher Ambition CEOs have articulated, Thinking of profit first and then purpose actually leads to under-delivering on both over time. Putting purpose first helps create cultural and strategic advantages that ultimately lead to better financial returns.