Business leaders had already recognised that the corporate world needed to change before the global pandemic hit as reaffirmed in Larry Fink’s annual letter to CEOs, the latest of which landed last month. But those that were exploring their corporate purpose pre-covid shifted from asking ‘why’ to ‘how’ almost overnight when the pandemic started to take hold.
Many businesses have had to pivot on policies and processes to ensure business continuity during the last year – and I believe this should ensure they’re in better shape to be sustainable longer term. That’s because many leaders have had to recognise the impact their businesses have on society, looking beyond their customers, staff and suppliers to wider communities and the environment – and how they were supporting the efforts against the pandemic. Others may have had some time to review their approach to business in a new light, examine their corporate practices and focus in on their reason for being in business – beyond the shareholders and the bottom line. In doing so, businesses have been making considerable in-roads to become much more stakeholder-led and consequently, embarked on a journey of driving greater positive impact through business.
Leaders in technology are no different. How and when they could evolve their business practices was now a key priority as the ongoing challenges of culture and connectivity, work-life balance and mental health gripped increasingly struggling workforces whilst restrictions tightened. So, after a number of conversations about how companies might use a global reset and the impact corporate purpose could have in us overcoming the greatest global challenges, we decided to step up and have a conversation with the UK tech community.
At the end of last year, we hosted a roundtable with some of the world’s most innovative brands - including Microsoft, Rakuten, Nutmeg, Eaton, Dell and Bulb - where we discussed the evolution of purpose, its market advantage, the importance of living a corporate purpose and how companies communicate it. It was apparent that everyone was on a challenging journey and moving to be more accountable for the impact of corporate decisions was difficult. But the sense of optimism from the group coupled with the enthusiasm to share insights and collaborate to aid our collective progress to all being more purpose-led was exciting and infectious. In this way, we wanted to follow up on this session and share what we learnt in the hope we can continue the conversation, help others on their journey and ultimately contribute to us all coming out of these challenging times better together.
“The world is still in crisis and will be for some time. We face a great challenge ahead. The companies that embrace this challenge – that seek to build long-term value for their stakeholders – will help deliver long-term returns to shareholders and build a brighter and more prosperous future for the world.” Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO, BlackRock