Putting purpose at the heart of a business may sound impressive and something many entrepreneurs aspire to but it’s not enough just to give it lip-service – that’s a false economy.
Although it may create a quick PR hit and earn a bit of kudos for a while, purpose cannot be a little ad hoc add-on whenever it suits, says serial entrepreneur Ruari Fairbairns. “It has to be a fundamental, a non-negotiable constant that runs right through every stratum of a company.”
And the bonus is that those who truly embrace the ethos, and make it an authentic part of their existence, reap benefits that far outweigh the money metrics, with financial experts Deloitte reporting that purpose-driven companies have higher market share gains and grow three times faster than their competitors.
“Leading with purpose means you can’t hide who you are, you have to be transparent and you have to walk the walk,” says Fairbairns, founder CEO of One Year No Beer (OYNB), “That engenders brand trust and loyalty among clients, staff, partners and supporters. It makes you more relevant, leads to deeper relationships and can open the door to all sorts of new connections. All these aspects help improve growth and revenues.
“Many companies who were once focused on achieving the highest return for their money are now realising that there’s a different way to do business, a way in which they can be an ongoing force for good, but it has to be in your soul.”
Fairbairns, who runs the OYNB alcohol behaviour change initiative, is a finalist in the Entrepreneur for Good category of the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, along with Alex Stephany, founder and CEO of Beam, the world’s first crowdfunding platform to help homeless people, and Loral Quinn, CEO and co-founder of Sustainably which allows buyers to round up their card transactions and support charity with their loose change.
All share the belief that purpose-led businesses are not only good for the economy but are the future leaders in all sectors, as companies and consumers adopt a more ethical and sustainable approach.
“As an entrepreneur, I’m focused on social metrics rather than financial metrics: the number of people who move into stable jobs and homes through Beam,” says Stephany. “I’m also an optimist. I believe we can make massive progress on some of the world’s toughest social problems quicker than most people think.
“Purpose-led businesses are so important because they have the potential to make a huge dent on some of the world’s biggest social issues. It typically takes charities a few decades to scale. Businesses, on the other hand, have the potential to grow really rapidly. Purpose-led businesses are able to combine the moral compass of a charity with the ambition and scalability of a business, which is really exciting. In Beam’s case, we are trying to bring the best of private sector innovation to people experiencing homelessness – for free.”
He hopes that in future there will be more money flowing into purpose-led ventures and more collaboration among like minds: “There’s a lot of talk in the world of start-ups about ‘disruption’ but you can often achieve far more through collaboration with existing organisations. That’s been our approach at Beam from day one when we set out to build a platform that was super-collaborative and allows everyone in the ecosystem to play to their strengths.”
Quinn echoes his conviction that purpose-led companies are crucial: “Not only are they creating products and services with benefits to society and the environment, they are leading on every business metric so are also good for the economy. “
As for what makes a great entrepreneur for good, she says: “It’s getting up every day with a mission to make something meaningful that makes a real difference to the world. We’re on a mission to make doing good simple – and part of everyday life.”
Regional winners of the Great British Entrepreneur Awards (GBEA) will be announced at the grand final in London on November 22 and founder Francesca James says there has been a huge increase in the number of entrants for the Entrepreneur For Good category across the UK this year – up 81% from 2020.
“The rise in ethical businesses is promising and every one of the individuals and organisations shortlisted are a testament to the impact profit with a purpose can make.
“We hope that helping share the stories of such incredible people will inspire others to think about the difference they can make to the communities around them.”