What we will cover
The B Corp movement is essentially putting social or environmental purpose at the heart of your business. In their words, we need an inclusive, equitable and regenerative economic system for all people and the planet. Let’s use business as a force for good.
It seemed very well aligned with where we are going, so we signed up and got started.
In functional terms, we have had to do a few unexpected and eyebrow raising things, our accountants weren’t expecting us to ask them about amending our articles of association.
The team weren’t expecting to be involved in discussions about how we include them in a board structure of accountability for the organisation and for myself and Richard, we really didn’t know we were about to revisit our mission and vision for the business with purpose and impact.
Purpose is a bit of a “why” question, and therefore one of the hardest. In fact on an individual level, my purpose remains a complex mystery that changes from moment to moment.
And I’m not alone, as few as 20% of us feel like we don’t have a purpose, and for the rest that do, our meaning is usually defined in broad terms like family, children, and community. These things are evolutionary priorities for our survival and perhaps could be considered “what” we do rather than “why” we do them.
What if we were to try and summarise our personal purpose like a mission and vision statement? I guess that’s the real role of a “personal brand”. A term I have always struggled with a little bit due to its wishy-washy corporate overuse.
When it comes to corporate brands, for well over a decade we have been helping organisations define their purpose and then align how they present themselves within it.
To my mind, branding is the delight of opening up endless possibilities to discover the key point of resonance with your audience and then doing your absolute best to convey that without dilution.
What I realised when we were challenged to put a commitment to a social or environmental impact in our mission statement, is that often our points of fixation are on outputs.
Purpose and impact lurk around the corner from output. Often we stop looking after we have got to output, and arguably that’s where all the good stuff is.
And there’s a great thing called “the logic model” that helps explain this by breaking down planning into a series of steps.
The logic model helps us look past outputs to the wider impact of our work
When I first saw it I was immediately transported back to primary school, writing a hypothesis for a science experiment, as what I now realise would have been my first documented experience of planning a process with an intended output.
When we consider our business activities through this lens (I’ll take Vu as an example).
We often plan an input:
Client or customer acquisition perhaps
Then do some defined activities:
Some digital marketing perhaps
And we aim for an output:
Revenue return greater than investment.
Happy client, happy days.
Let’s all go to the beach.
But what if we keep looking…
What is the outcome of the increased revenue?
Thriving business? probably.
More jobs? possibly.
Greater economy? In isolation, perhaps too far.
And what about the impact of those outcomes?
Economically secure businesses and people, freed of financial constraint to make decisions about how they do business, rather than needing more of it.
This opened up a new dimension to me…
Taking these couple of extra steps had pivoted my thinking. Making my previous definition of purpose look more like an output, it was almost like opening up a different dimension.
Of course the above example is anchored in a financial output, which will then lead to financial impact, this is only part of the story for any organisation. When we turn that output to environmental or social impact we begin to discover some fascinating pathways.
We had a go at connecting what we do to the UN Sustainable Development Goals to see where our impact sits. We discovered the following statements:
In supporting SME’s to create customer-centric marketing strategies to accelerate their economic growth, thereby creating mutually beneficial experiences and a prosperous and sustainable future.
In order for business communities to flourish they need to promote responsible growth, equitable career opportunities and societal value, thereby leaving a lasting positive impact on subsequent generations.
That every business worldwide should be driven by a profound sense of responsibility, promoting a greener, fairer world for future generations through a vastly reduced environmental footprint.
That is certainly something I can get behind as a vision for Vu Online. And to summarise that into a purpose or impact lead mission statement? How about…
Growing sustainable business communities by helping SMEs to pursue economic goals while reducing their environmental impact.
Thank you Bcorp, you have touched the very fibre of our being, encouraged us to go soul-searching with our messaging, and increased our potential to do some good in the world whilst working in a community of our kind of people – isn’t that what we are all looking for?
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