Propelling the Purpose Economy

Nov 23, 2021

On November 17 and 18 social purpose thought leaders, subject-matter experts, champions and practitioners came together for the first-ever national gathering on the purpose economy in Canada. 

Kicking off the Summit, keynote speaker Naheed Nenshi, former Mayor of Calgary, highlighted that we are at a crossroads in Canada as we face five future-defining events/crises at once: a public health crisis with COVID-19, a mental health and addictions crisis, an environmental crisis, an economy that isn’t working for all, and a reckoning on equity and justice.

With the event being held just days after devastating flooding in British Columbia, the latest in a long list of recent climate disasters, the urgency of the moment was clear.  Throughout the Summit panelists and speakers reinforced that there has never been a more important time to critically examine what is and isn’t working within our society and economy and start to make major strides to change course.  As Dr. Katherine Trebeck shared in the International Insights session, we don’t need to just put a Band-Aid on our current economy, we can build a better one.  And social purpose can help us do just that. 

The Social Purpose Difference

Social purpose is the way forward for both businesses and consumers with increasing demand for businesses to be purpose-driven. From making purchasing decisions to selecting a place of employment, Canadians are looking for organizations that align with their values and that are tackling societal issues.

By adopting a social purpose model, companies can unlock unlimited potential, including increased profit and innovation, partnerships, collaborative relationships, and more. But more importantly, businesses with a social purpose are companies whose enduring reason for being is to create a better world by being an engine for good.  Although no one organization can move the needle on the complex issues we face, through collaboration and the implementation of social purpose, organizations can harness all of their competencies, expertise, talent, resources, influence, reach, and scale to work towards creating better futures for their employees, customers, and wider communities.

A Call to Action

Throughout the Summit, social purpose leaders issued a call for courage, recognizing that while the road ahead isn’t easy, it is absolutely critical. 

Speakers over the course of the two days highlighted a number of actions business leaders can take, including:

  1. Adopt a social purpose that addresses a societal issue, is relevant, is distinct, is aspirational, is a rallying cry, and is a quest to forever be pursued.
  2. Ensure that your business strategy is your social purpose strategy.
  3. Take care of your people and recognize that employee expectations are changing, they care about how you show up for them and for society.
  4. Create corporate cultures that encourage experimentation, fast piloting, and the ability to scale what works.
  5. Leverage your purpose to help drive the decisions you make, focus your efforts, and differentiate your business. 
  6. Consider your origin story.  Why does your business exist and what would happen if it didn’t?
  7. Bring all of your stakeholders along with you on this journey by providing information on how they can both help you advance your purpose, benefit from it, and adopt their own purpose.
  8. Measure and incentivize your purpose, build it into job descriptions, and have plans to achieve your purpose goals.
  9. Connect with leaders within other social purpose organizations and join communities of practice to learn from others’ experiences.
  10. Recognize that social purpose is a team sport and build an ecosystem that encourages collaboration.

As we reflect back on two incredible days of learning, we want to say a big thank you to the Social Purpose Institute, the Summit advising partners, the speakers and panelists, and all those who attended the inaugural Propelling Purpose Summit.  The spirit of collaboration and teamwork was evident throughout the Summit and we look forward to working alongside each of you to advance the purpose economy in Canada.

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