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What Do We Mean By Purpose?

For many, the upcoming Christmas break comes with a sense of purpose; getting together with friends and family, an opportunity to relax, a chance at self reflection and even getting tasks done that have previously been neglected.

But what do we mean by purpose in the working world? After all, what one person, or company, thinks about what their definition is, someone else can think it is something else entirely. Purpose can also vary in the size of intent and deliverable, and it can also be a singular action or multi-faceted approach.

Let’s start with two Dictionary definitions of purpose (noun):

The intention, aim or function of something; the thing that something is supposed to achieve.

An intention or aim; a reason for doing something or for allowing something to happen.

Now let’s apply that to business. Traditionally, a business purpose referred to the wider, long-term goals of a commercial enterprise; the corporate’s reason for existing if you will.

But, though that still exists, the definition of purpose has evolved in the business community over recent years.

Now, successful companies know their purpose is when corporate values meet the needs of a changing world, embracing the idea that the purpose of a business is to create long term value for all stakeholders, and the wider community around them. It has renewed importance.

So, what is the ‘new’ definition of purpose in this context? What do we at Actus Consulting think?

For us, it is a belief centred on making a difference, - a social impact - but (please note), this doesn’t mean it has to be world changing.  For example, aligning the mission and goals of the business so employees know they are contributing to the bigger picture (often by helping and supporting others). Or, working across the business to not only be more sustainable, but ensure your wider network of partners and suppliers are too.

Take our fictional ice cream shop – Sundae Funday.

Is their purpose to make the best ice cream in the world? Maybe. But the purpose we are talking about is purpose with societal impact. So, making the best ice cream in the world, through equitable employment opportunities and responsible ingredients sourcing.

Being a purpose-driven business is specifically about a need the business is addressing for a greater benefit to society. Moving away from “take, make, waste” and towards putting more into society as a business than you are taking out. Better jobs that offer financial security, equitable opportunities, servicing or providing access to an historically overlooked group, environmentally responsible or environmental solutions, giving back to the community where you operate. 

Purpose drives the choices and therefore actions a company leadership team and stakeholders make. Once you have clarified and articulated that purpose, then you can start to make the strategic choice to solidify your impact on society.

And that’s what purpose means to me and the Actus Consulting team. What about you?


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