Why Social Purpose is important to Modo
An interview with Patrick Nangle
In October, Social Purpose Institute launched its inaugural group of Implementers. The room was filled with passionate business leaders and Social Purpose Innovators alumni. One of the newcomers to the group was Modo — the popular car sharing co-operative based in British Columbia.
They have a history of leading with purpose. A lot of that starts with leadership. We took some time to find out why being part of the Social Purpose movement was so important to Modo and, in particular, to Patrick Nangle — CEO of the company.
Responses by Patrick Nangle, CEO, Modo Co-op
How did Modo land on its social purpose? What was the process?
Modo Co-operative was created very intentionally to serve a social purpose. We are an organization that is owned and operated by the people who use and benefit from our services, taking an ethical and sustainable approach to business by considering not only the economic impacts of our activities, but also the social/cultural and environmental impacts. Modo’s founders wanted to live free of the need to own a car while still having access to one when needed. Primary objectives then, as today, were framed in terms of affordability and environmental impact.
While the co-op’s purpose has not fundamentally changed since its founding, it’s important from time-to-time to confirm the definition remains relevant and is adapted as necessary to members’ changing needs. It’s also important to assure a common understanding amongst decision makers and influencers, in particular as people in the Board and in the business leadership change.
I joined Modo in summer of 2016 with the mandate to guide strategy in the quickly evolving market of personal mobility. I have long believed that purpose comes before strategy and wanted to ensure early on that our purpose was clear, memorable and commonly understood. In the fall of 2016, we held a weekend meeting off-site with our Board and Leadership Team with the sole purpose of clarifying our purpose, and defined the statement we use today. We thereafter held a workshop with all employees to ensure our purpose was understood and embraced by the people delivering on it in their daily work.
Why is Social Purpose important to Modo?
It describes why we exist. Without understanding our purpose it’s not possible to navigate the many challenging strategic and sometimes even tactical questions that arise and remain focused on what’s most important. It also serves to remind us why we do what we do, and that decisions that benefit our members and community come first.
Without understanding our Purpose, its not possible to navigate the many challenging strategic and sometimes even tactical questions … and remain focused on what’s most important.
— Patrick Nangle, CEO, Modo Co-op
What about the SPI Implementers intrigued Modo to join?
As we have worked to continue to sharpen our focus on our purpose, we have found proving definitively that we are realizing it to be a challenge. Like most, we have metrics in place to measure other important aspects of our business, but have yet to really crystalize what this could look like for our social impacts. We expect others will have comparable challenges and look forward to sharing experiences and ideas in order to do better.
How do you feel about going through Implementers with a group of other business leaders?
Until now, we have been going solo. While we are encouraged by the progress we are making, it’s refreshing to be in a room with like-minded people and to learn from and support each other.
What are you looking forward to most with Implementers?
Not every business has had the advantage, like Modo, of having achievement of a social purpose in its DNA from day one. We look forward to experiencing with the group of very diverse businesses in our cohort the challenges and successes of making this journey and, in the end, each finding a way to “walk the talk”.
Patrick Nangle has more than 20 years senior executive experience in international business and managing across borders. He has lived in Canada, The Netherlands, Switzerland and the USA and worked all over Europe, North America and parts of Asia.