Richard Shotton has already dismantled the lazy logic that suggests there is a relationship between purpose and business performance.
The case for more perspective and greater humility has been made by Gareth Kay.
I want to offer just one more line of critique.
Namely that if a business or brand tells you that it wants to help solve a big problem in the world, or that is has a higher purpose than simply selling stuff, or that it wants to make the world a better place, then marketing’s claims, promises, and manifestos are not what we should be interrogating.
Instead, we should be looking at where it sources its raw materials from
… its manufacturing processes
… its sustainability practices
… its employment practices
… its pension provisions
… its safety practices and policies
… its approach to workplace diversity
… its stance on worker representation
… its treatment of workplace whistleblowers
… its policy on pay equality
… its attitudes towards job automation
… its commitment to employee re-training
… how it compensates its senior management,
… what its incentivises senior management for
… its business practices
… how it treats its suppliers and partners
… its stance on corporate governance
… how it treats customer data
… how it protects customers’ privacy
… what it does with its profits
… what proportion of its profits go to civic or social good programmes
… if and where it chooses to pay corporate tax
… what legislation it lobbies for
… its political party donations
… how it defines success
… and how well all of this is aligned with its stated Purpose.
In other words if a business tells us that that it is driven by a world-changing purpose, we should enquire whether the entire organisation is pointed at that Purpose. Or just the marketing department, its agency, and its advertising.