Strategy

Balancing Profit and Purpose: Creating Brands with Impact

By
The Desiree Team
June 14, 2023
Image Credit — The Body Shop
In recent years, the concept of purpose has become increasingly important in business. Many companies are now pursuing purpose-driven initiatives, and there is growing recognition that businesses are responsible for creating value for society and their stakeholders. This trend has emerged for several reasons, including changing consumer attitudes, a desire for more meaningful work, and a growing awareness of the impact that businesses have on the environment and society as a whole.

In this article:


In recent years, the concept of purpose has become increasingly important in business. Many companies are now pursuing purpose-driven initiatives, and there is growing recognition that businesses are responsible for creating value for society and their stakeholders. This trend has emerged for several reasons, including changing consumer attitudes, a desire for more meaningful work, and a growing awareness of the impact that businesses have on the environment and society as a whole.


Defining the terms

At the heart of this discussion is the question of what it means for a business to have a purpose. Some argue that a business's purpose should be solely focused on generating profits for its shareholders, while others believe that businesses have a broader responsibility to create value for society as a whole. 

To better understand the discussion around profit and purpose in business, it's crucial to define these terms in this context. Profit is the financial gain a business generates for its owners or shareholders. It is a key driver of a business's sustainability and growth, as profits enable businesses to reinvest in their operations, expand into new markets, and create new products and services.

Purpose, on the other hand, refers to the reason why a business exists beyond simply making a profit. Purpose-driven businesses are focused on creating value for society and their stakeholders. This can take many forms, from supporting sustainable practises and reducing carbon footprints to investing in the communities where they operate and creating meaningful job opportunities for employees.

While profit has always been a central concern for businesses, purpose has become an increasingly important consideration in recent years. Consumers are increasingly aware of the social and environmental impacts of the businesses they support and are more likely to support companies aligned with their values. 

The Case for Profit

While purpose-driven initiatives are essential for businesses, profit should come first for businesses to sustain themselves, grow, and create value for their stakeholders. Generating revenue and making a profit is the lifeblood of any business. Without it, a business cannot continue to operate, expand, or invest in its employees, products, or services. 

In addition, a focus on profit allows businesses to create value for their stakeholders, which include shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate. By generating profits, businesses can provide better wages and benefits for their employees, create new job opportunities, and invest in new products and services. Profitability also enables businesses to support social and environmental initiatives that align with their values and benefit society.

While there is no denying that purpose is vital for businesses, it cannot be pursued at the expense of profitability. Businesses that do not generate profits will ultimately fail, harming their stakeholders, including employees, customers, and shareholders. Therefore, businesses must prioritise profit to sustain themselves, grow, and create long-term value for their stakeholders.

The case for purpose

While profit should come first for businesses, purpose-driven initiatives are also crucial for companies to create long-term value. Purpose-driven companies are those that are focused on creating value for society as well as for their stakeholders. By pursuing purpose-driven initiatives, companies can build stronger customer relationships, attract and retain top talent, and differentiate themselves from competitors.

One example of a successful purpose-driven company is Patagonia, an outdoor apparel company that has made sustainability a core part of its business model. Patagonia aims to "build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis." By pursuing this purpose, Patagonia has attracted a loyal customer base that values sustainability and has differentiated itself from other outdoor apparel companies. In addition, Patagonia's purpose-driven initiatives have enabled the company to reduce its environmental impact, support local communities, and promote sustainable business practises throughout its supply chain.

Another example of a beauty brand that prioritises purpose over profit is "The Body Shop." The Body Shop has been a pioneer in the industry with its strong stance against animal testing and dedication to fair trade and sustainability. They source their ingredients ethically, support community trade initiatives, and advocate for environmental conservation. The company actively engages in social activism and campaigns for causes such as banning animal testing and promoting human rights. The Body Shop's purpose-driven approach has resonated with consumers who seek beauty products that align with their values, allowing the brand to thrive while making a positive impact on society and the planet.

Successful purpose-driven companies can balance profit and purpose by aligning their purpose with their core business strategy. They can create long-term value for their stakeholders by pursuing purpose-driven initiatives that generate profits. In addition, they are transparent about their purpose and communicate their values to their stakeholders, which helps to build trust and loyalty. These companies can create sustainable businesses that generate long-term value for their stakeholders by prioritising profit and purpose.

Balancing profit and purpose

Balancing profit and purpose can be challenging for businesses, but it is crucial for companies that want to create long-term value for their stakeholders. Rather than viewing purpose as a short-term goal, businesses should see it as a long-term investment that can help them create sustainable businesses that generate value for society and their stakeholders.

Businesses can balance profit and purpose by aligning their purpose with their core business strategy. This means identifying purpose-driven initiatives directly linked to the company's products, services, or operations, which can help the company differentiate itself from its competitors. By pursuing purpose-driven initiatives closely linked to the company's core business, businesses can create value for their stakeholders while generating profits.

Businesses should also measure and track the impact of their purpose-driven initiatives. Businesses can monitor their progress and adjust as needed by setting clear goals and metrics for their purpose-driven initiatives. This can help businesses ensure that their purpose-driven initiatives are generating the desired outcomes and can help them identify areas where they can improve their impact.

Businesses can balance profit and purpose by communicating their purpose and values to their stakeholders. By being transparent about their purpose and values, businesses can build trust and loyalty with their stakeholders and differentiate themselves from their competitors. This can help businesses attract and retain top talent, build strong customer relationships, and create long-term value for their stakeholders.

The discussion of profit and purpose in business is an important one. Businesses need to focus on generating revenue and making a profit to survive and grow, but they also need to consider their impact on society and the environment. Purpose-driven initiatives can help businesses create long-term value and differentiate themselves from competitors. Still, it's essential to view purpose as a long-term investment rather than a short-term goal.

If you're interested in learning more about how to balance profit and purpose in your business, many resources are available. Further suggested reading includes "Firms of Endearment" by Raj Sisodia, Jagdish Sheth, and David Wolfe and "Conscious Capitalism" by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia. Additionally, at Desiree, we specialise in helping brands pursue purpose-driven initiatives while generating profits.

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