The Purpose Gloves Are Off: How to Not End Up on the Ropes

By Coro Strandberg, Advisor, United Way Social Purpose Institute

Apr 07, 2022

Purpose in Canada just entered the ring.

Corporate Knights, the famed Canadian publisher that annually ranks the world’s 100 most sustainable corporations, recently released its rating of 34 Canadian companies with a social purpose (a report I co-authored). It found that only half of those with a social purpose invest in authentic implementation; half likely do not and are at risk of purpose-washing. From this, we concluded:

  • There is a lack of standards/guidance for companies on purpose execution, so companies are flying blind.
  • If organizations don’t effectively implement their purpose, not only will they not accrue the benefits, but they risk alienating their stakeholders.
  • Those that have authentic implementation of purpose will unlock their resources, influence, reach and scale to realize its potential and impact, and will help put society on a sustainable course.

For Canada or any country to accelerate the Purpose Economy, purpose governance and implementation guidelines are needed. This was recently reinforced by consultations conducted by the United Way Social Purpose Institute (UWSPI) and published in the report, Propelling the Canadian Purpose Economy: A Framework for Action. Most members of the social purpose community believe that Canada needs an accreditation or rating system to foster and drive authentic social purpose implementation and impact.

There are global developments in this arena, including the British Standards Institute — which is developing a UK standard for purpose-driven organizations, referred to as PAS 808. However, Canada can’t wait for this to become a set of global guidelines. B Lab’s B Corp Assessment Tool is a great resource for companies to be a force for good; but it does not provide advice on how to implement a social purpose, per se.

Fortunately, the UWSPI can be a coach to help improve technique. Not only does it provide a program to help companies implement their social purpose through a peer-based model (Social Purpose Implementers), it provides a free Social Purpose Assessment Tool to help companies assess and rate the degree to which their purpose is fully embedded across the company and in its relationships. It is a guideline and set of best practices that enable company benchmarking, offering guidance on how to become an authentic social purpose company.

Read the full article at Sustainable Brands.

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