Defining our Purpose, Vision and Values

Social Purpose Will Change Everything

By Mary Ellen Schaafsma, Director, Social Purpose Institute

Sometimes, all it takes is a moment of clarity for you to realize why you’re doing what you’re doing and — more importantly — why what you’re doing matters. This happened to me when, suddenly, one day the full potential of social purpose in business, and how the Social Purpose Institute (SPI) can help create truly significant and lasting change for society, hit me like a bolt of lightning.

Social purpose in business is a rapidly growing business driver that sees for-profit businesses embedding a societal purpose as the very reason they exist. Then, everything the business does generates social benefits — the business itself becomes an engine for good. This pivots companies from being pure profit generators to also generating social and environmental good which leads to (among other worthy things) employee retention, innovation and growth. It also shifts the focus from social good being a ‘social license’ requirement to being a true driver of value creation for the business and its stakeholders. Not only is social purpose good for society, but it is good for business.

My epiphany, really, was that this could change everything. If businesses start adopting a social purpose and making it the lens on everything that they do, they will bring so much more than only their philanthropy and volunteering to help create positive change in our communities and society. They will leverage all the company brings: its resources, talents, competencies, assets, influence — to move the needle on major societal issues. This goes on to have an exponential effect: as their business practices pivot to purpose, their partners (and potential future partners) begin to pivot as well. As they demonstrate the benefits of purpose, their industry sees a leader and begins to make the move towards purpose. And so on. Purpose does change everything; it ultimately shifts the whole system to a new normal and creates a new role for business — of all industries and sizes — in the world. A role that both transcends, yet leads to profits (and thus capacity to do more good, a virtuous circle).

This is how the Social Purpose Institute came to be — the moment I realized the potential for social purpose: I. Was. All. In.

It had to happen.

Here at the Social Purpose Institute, we developed programs and supports to help businesses define, embed and bring to life a social purpose as the core of their business model; something which we believe will result in meaningful long-term impact. Many of our societal issues are deeply entrenched and new ones are on the rise; governments haven’t made a dent, the social sector hasn’t solved the issues and society is struggling to care or offer care. What social purpose delivers is substantial change through the biggest powerhouse society has to offer: business. Imagine what might happen if businesses bring all they’ve got to bear on these issues…

Working first with Coro Strandberg as our Social Purpose expert advisor and then receiving seed funding from government and a foundation to enable hiring a mighty team of four, we avidly work with enthusiastic partners to make social purpose the reason for being for more and more companies. Our goal is to create a movement that changes the system and carves out a new role for businesses in society and that as they grow, they do more good. As they do more good, they begin to co-create solutions with and within communities, and across sectors, that lead to true and lasting change. 

Just recently, the SPI Team — Zaid Elbitar, Philip Manzano, Monika Marcovici, Coro Strandberg and I — decided to clearly define SPI’s Purpose, Vision and Values.

Our Purpose, Vision and Values

Social Purpose Institute Purpose Vision Values

Our Purpose

Our Purpose is to grow business for good.

We can break this down into two sections.

“Grow Business” means:

  • Growing business capacity for Social Purpose
  • Growing the number of Social Purpose businesses
  • The growth a business will see because of its Social Purpose — to do more good through their Social Purpose business model

“For Good” means:

  • For societal good
  • Forever

Our Vision

Social Purpose businesses are co-creating thriving and resilient communities.

Positive societal impact is not achieved in isolation. It is achieved through partnership.

Our Values

Our values guide everything that we do at Social Purpose Institute, both internally and externally. These three guiding principles help to ensure that we are acting socially and with integrity (passionate collaboration), that we operate in purpose (greater good) and that we deliver excellence through our institute (courageous innovation)

Passionate Collaboration Greater Good Courageous Innovation
We draw upon the strength of people and business working together. We insist on authenticity and value reciprocity. We are performance-driven through the lens of humanity, demonstrating empathy and humility in all we do. We are bold and curious risk-takers experimenting fast to learn sooner, willing to get uncomfortable to unearth solutions. 

Tell us: does this resonate with our beginnings, and our dreams for the future?

Tell us what you think

Social Purpose InstituteMary Ellen is the Director of the Social Purpose Institute and United Way of the Lower Mainland. She is dedicated to fostering Social Purpose in businesses – across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley — to help companies benefit from the act of installing Social Purpose at their core, creating tangible and meaningful community benefits. Mary Ellen has a Master in Health Administration from the University of Ottawa and a Certificate in Social Innovation from SFU.

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